Etymology
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instrumental (adj.)

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

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Definitions of instrumental from WordNet

instrumental (adj.)
relating to or designed for or performed on musical instruments;
an instrumental ensemble
instrumental compositions
instrumental (adj.)
serving or acting as a means or aid;
instrumental in solving the crime
Synonyms: implemental / subservient
Etymologies are not definitions. From wordnet.princeton.edu, not affiliated with etymonline.