late 14c., "of the nature of an instrument, serving as a means to an end," from Old French instrumental, from Medieval Latin *instrumentalis, from Latin instrumentum "a tool, apparatus" (see instrument (n.)). Meaning "serviceable, useful" is from c. 1600. Of music, c. 1500; noun meaning "musical composition for instruments only" is attested by 1940. Related: Instrumentally; instrumentality.
updated on December 13, 2015