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Meaning of instrumental

in•stru•men•tal

Pronunciation: (in"stru-men'tl), [key]
— adj.
  1. serving or acting as an instrument or means; useful; helpful.
  2. performed on or written for a musical instrument or instruments: instrumental music.
  3. of or pertaining to an instrument or tool.
    1. (in certain inflected languages, as Old English and Russian) noting or pertaining to a case having as its distinctive function the indication of means or agency, as Old English beseah blīthe andweitan “looked with a happy countenance.”
    2. noting the affix or other element characteristic of this case, or a word containing such an element.
    3. similar to such a case form in function or meaning, as the Latin instrumental ablative, gladiō, “by means of a sword.”
    4. (in case grammar) pertaining to the semantic role of a noun phrase that indicates the inanimate, nonvolitional, immediate cause of the action expressed by a verb, as the rock in The rock broke the window or in I broke the window with the rock.
—n.
    1. the instrumental case.
    2. a word in the instrumental case.
    3. a construction of similar meaning.
  1. a musical composition played by an instrument or a group of instruments. Cf. vocal (def. 8).
Random House Unabridged Dictionary, Copyright © 1997, by Random House, Inc., on Infoplease.
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