Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Serving as a means or agency; implemental: was instrumental in solving the crime.
  • adj. Of, relating to, or accomplished with an instrument or tool.
  • adj. Music Performed on or written for an instrument.
  • adj. Grammar Of, relating to, or being the case used typically to express means, agency, or accompaniment.
  • adj. Of or relating to instrumentalism.
  • n. Grammar The instrumental case.
  • n. A word or form in the instrumental case.
  • n. Music A composition for one or more instruments, usually without vocal accompaniment.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Acting as an instrument; serving as a means; contributing to promote; conductive; helpful; serviceable; essential or central.
  • adj. Pertaining to, made by, or prepared for, an instrument, especially a musical instrument.
  • adj. Applied to a case expressing means or agency, generally indicated in English by by or with with the objective.
  • n. The instrumental case.
  • n. A composition without lyrics.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Acting as an instrument; serving as a means; contributing to promote; conductive; helpful; serviceable.
  • adj. Pertaining to, made by, or prepared for, an instrument, esp. a musical instrument.
  • adj. Applied to a case expressing means or agency. This is found in Sanskrit and Russian as a separate case, but in Greek it was merged into the dative, and in Latin into the ablative. In Old English it was a separate case, but has disappeared, leaving only a few anomalous forms.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Of the nature of an instrument or tool; serving as an instrument or means; used or serving to promote or effect an object; helpful; serviceable: as, the press has been instrumental in enlarging the bounds of knowledge.
  • Pertaining to, made by, or prepared for instruments, especially musical instruments.
  • In grammar, serving to indicate the instrument or means: applied to a case, as in Sanskrit, involving the notion of by or with.
  • n. An instrument.
  • n. The instrumental case. Compare I., 3.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. relating to or designed for or performed on musical instruments
  • adj. serving or acting as a means or aid

Etymologies

From Middle English, from Medieval Latin instrumentalis, from instruere ("to build into, set up, construct, furnish, hence "to train""), from in- ("on") + struere ("to put together, arrange, pile up, build, construct"), from Proto-Indo-European *strew- (“to spread, to strew”). (Wiktionary)

Examples

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