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This page has 19 definitions of instance in English and French. Instance is a noun and verb. Also define these 46 related words and terms: urgency, request, insistence, New York, evidence, proof, sign, occasion, case, exemplification, precedent, example, computing, instantiate, database, object, class, object-oriented, massively multiplayer online game, dungeon, duplicate, player, party, private, isolate, Internet, independent, server, decentralised, social network, Mastodon, mention, refer, cite, exemplify, urgent, demand, plea, authority, forum, agency, body, law, proceedings, prosecution, and object-oriented programming.


Alternative forms


Borrowed from Middle French instance, from Latin īnstantia (a being near, presence, also perseverance, earnestness, importunity, urgency), from īnstāns (urgent); see instant.



instance (plural instances)

  1. (obsolete) Urgency of manner or words; an urgent request; insistence. [14th–19th c.]
  2. (obsolete) A token; a sign; a symptom or indication.
  3. (obsolete) That which is urgent; motive.
  4. (obsolete) A piece of evidence; a proof or sign (of something). [16th–18th c.]
    • c. 1594 (date written), William Shakespeare, “The Comedie of Errors”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, (please specify the act number in uppercase Roman numerals, and the scene number in lowercase Roman numerals):
      The reason that I gather he is mad, Besides this present instance of his rage, Is a mad tale he told to day at dinner []
    • Proof definition
      An effort, process, or operation designed to establish or discover a fact or truth; an act of testing; a test; a trial. (1 of 11 proof definitions)
    • Sign definition
      A fact that shows that something exists or may happen. (1 of 13 sign definitions)
  5. Occasion; order of occurrence.
    • 1713, [Matthew Hale], “Concerning the Distribution of the Laws of England into Common Law, and Statute Law. And First, Concerning the Statute Law, or Acts of Parliament.”, in The History of the Common Law of England: [], [London]: [] J[ohn] Nutt, assignee of Edw[ard] Sayer Esq; for J. Walthoe, [], →OCLC, page 14:
      The Statutes, or Acts of Parliament themſelves. Theſe ſeem, as if in the Time of Edw[ard] I. they were drawn up into the Form of a Law in the firſt Inſtance, and ſo aſſented to by both Houſes, and the King, as may appear by the very Obſervation of the Contexture and Fabrick of the Statutes of thoſe Times.
  6. A case offered as an exemplification or a precedent; an illustrative example. [from 16th c.]
    • August 30, 1706, Francis Atterbury, a sermon preach'd in the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, at the funeral of Mr. Tho. Bennet
      most remarkable instances of suffering
    • 1624, Democritus Junior [pseudonym; Robert Burton], The Anatomy of Melancholy: [], 2nd edition, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Printed by John Lichfield and James Short, for Henry Cripps, →OCLC:
      sometimes we love those that are absent, saith Philostratus, and gives instance in his friend Athenodorus, that loved a maid at Corinth whom he never saw []
    • Precedent definition
      An act in the past which may be used as an example to help decide the outcome of similar instances in the future. (1 of 6 precedent definitions)
    • Example definition
      Something that is representative of all such things in a group. (1 of 6 example definitions)
  7. One of a series of recurring occasions, cases, essentially the same.
    • 2006, Robert Spaemann, Persons: The Difference Between 'someone' and 'something', page 115:
      One's own death is an 'accidental' event, simply another instance of the general rule that human beings die.
    • 2010, Kenneth Anderson, How to Change Your Drinking: a Harm Reduction Guide to Alcohol, page 59:
      If you choose to drink again the best way to avoid another instance of withdrawal is to avoid drinking two days in a row.
    • 2010 October 11, Mark King, “Homeowners warned to be vigilant as identity and registration fraud rises”, in The Guardian[2]:
      The organisations claim fraudsters are targeting properties belonging to both individuals and companies, in some instances using forged documents.
  8. (computing) A specific occurrence of something that is created or instantiated, such as a database, or an object of a class in object-oriented programming. [from 20th c.]
    • 2000, Dov Bulka, David Mayhew, Efficient C++: Performance Programming Techniques, page 149:
      Some compilers will allow statics to be inlined, but then incorrectly create multiple instances of the inlined variable at run-time.
  9. (massively multiplayer online games) A dungeon or other area that is duplicated for each player, or each party of players, that enters it, so that each player or party has a private copy of the area, isolated from other players.
    • Player definition
      One that plays
      1. One who plays any game or sport. (1 of 12 player definitions)
    • Party definition
      A person or group of people constituting a particular side in a contract or legal action. (1 of 18 party definitions)
  10. (massively multiplayer online games) An individual copy of such a dungeon or other area.
    • 2005 January 11, Patrick B., “Re: Instance dungeons”, in[4] (Usenet):
      The instance is created for the group that enters it.
    • 2005 December 6, Rene, “Re: Does group leader affect drops?”, in[5] (Usenet):
      As soon as the first player enters (spawns) a new instance, it appears that the loottable is somehow chosen.
    • 2010, Anthony Steed, Manuel Fradinho Oliveira, Networked Graphics: Building Networked Games and Virtual Environments, Elsevier, →ISBN, page 398:
      A castle on the eastern edge of the island spawns a new instance whenever a party of players enters.
  11. (Internet) An independent server on the decentralised social network Mastodon.
    • 2017, Masaki Kohana et al., “A Topic Trend on P2P Based Social Media”, in Leonard Barolli, Makoto Takizawa, Tomoya Enokido, editors, Advances in Network-Based Information Systems: The 20th International Conference on Network-Based Information Systems (NBiS-2017), page 1140:
      To collect the messages, we select the as the target instance. The is one of the major Mastodon instances that has 123,331 users and connects to the 2415 other instances at 26 Feb 2017.
    • 2022, Derek Caelin, “Decentralized Networks vs The Trolls”, in Hoda Mahmoudi, Kate Seaman, Michael H. Allen, editors, Fundamental Challenges to Global Peace and Security: The Future of Humanity[6], page 157:
      In a poll I conducted on Mastodon, 42% of the 674 respondents said that they had reported something, whether it had been a spam account or hateful content, to their instance's moderator.
    • 2023, Chris Minnick, Michael McCallister, Mastodon for Dummies[7], page 14:
      Every Mastodon instance (neighborhood) has a code of conduct that you have to agree to before you join (move in).

Derived terms

Related terms


See also


instance (third-person singular simple present instances, present participle instancing, simple past and past participle instanced)

  1. (transitive) To mention as a case or example; to refer to; to cite
    • 1834, L[etitia] E[lizabeth] L[andon], chapter XII, in Francesca Carrara. [], volume III, London: Richard Bentley, [], (successor to Henry Colburn), →OCLC, page 93:
      The reason why so many fallacious opinions have passed into proverbs is owing to that carelessness which makes the individual instance the general rule.
    • 1901 April 12, “Veterinary Departmental Report for February, 1901”, in The Agricultural Journal and Mining Record[8], volume 4, number 3, page 87:
      District Veterinary Surgeon Hutchinson's report from Newcastle is again worthy of notice, as instancing the difficulty of suppression of contagious disease under the disturbed conditions now existing in the northern part of the Colony.
    • 1946, E. M. Butler, Rainer Maria Rilke, page 404:
      The poems which I have instanced are concrete and relatively glaring examples of the intangible difference which the change of language made in Rilke's visions .
    • Mention definition
      A speaking or notice of anything, usually in a brief or cursory manner. Used especially in the phrase make mention of. (1 of 2 mention definitions)
  2. (intransitive) To cite an example as proof; to exemplify.
  3. (massively multiplayer online games) To duplicate (a dungeon or other area) for each player, or each party of players, that enters it, so that each player or party has a private copy of the area, isolated from other players.
    • 2010 April 1, Scott F. Andrews, The Guild Leader's Handbook: Strategies and Guidance from a Battle-Scarred MMO Veteran, No Starch Press, →ISBN, page 124:
      In these games, such as World of Warcraft and Lord of the Rings Online, most significant PvP happens inside instanced or player-capped areas.
    • 2012 May 31, Ashok Kumar, Algorithmic and Architectural Gaming Design: Implementation and Development: Implementation and Development, IGI Global, →ISBN, page 302:
      This is an improvement compared to contemporary MMORPG which combine zoning and instancing, whereas replication is currently not available for a combination with either of them. Zoning (Cai, Xavier, Turner, & Lee, 2002; Macedonia, Zyda, []
    • 2021 May 24, Mark J. P. Wolf, Encyclopedia of Video Games: The Culture, Technology, and Art of Gaming, 2nd Edition [3 volumes], ABC-CLIO, →ISBN, page 316:
      Instanced encounters standard in today's MMORPGs, but the lack of instancing in early EverQuest meant that the guild (a team of players operating as a team) or group(s) of players who raced to and engaged a target first could claim the []





Etymology 1

From Latin īnstantia.


instance f (plural instances)

  1. (often in the plural) urgent demand, insistence, plea
  2. authority, forum, agency, body
    • Agency definition
      The capacity, condition, or state of acting or of exerting power. (1 of 6 agency definitions)
  3. (law) legal proceedings, prosecution process
  4. (object-oriented programming) instance
Derived terms

Etymology 2

A derivative of etymology 1, but reborrowed from English.


instance f (plural instances)

  1. (computing) instance

Further reading