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[im-pruh-vahyz] /ˈɪm prəˌvaɪz/
verb (used with object), improvised, improvising.
to compose and perform or deliver without previous preparation; extemporize:
to improvise an acceptance speech.
to compose, play, recite, or sing (verse, music, etc.) on the spur of the moment.
to make, provide, or arrange from whatever materials are readily available:
We improvised a dinner from yesterday's leftovers.
verb (used without object), improvised, improvising.
to compose, utter, execute, or arrange anything extemporaneously:
When the actor forgot his lines he had to improvise.
Origin of improvise
1820-30; < French improviser, or its source, Italian improvisare (later improvvisare), verbal derivative of improviso improvised < Latin imprōvīsus, equivalent to im- im-2 + prōvīsus past participle of prōvidēre to see beforehand, prepare, provide for (a future circumstance). See proviso
Related forms
improviser, improvisor, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for improvise
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Am I to improvise a wife, in my own house, because a stray girl may object to visiting a bachelor?

    The Militants Mary Raymond Shipman Andrews
  • He could improvise elsewhere a home that would suffice for him.

    The Eyes of the Woods Joseph A. Altsheler
  • But best of all were the evenings when the Marquis chose to improvise.

    The Inn at the Red Oak Latta Griswold
  • This will not do,” said he; “we must improvise a better torch than this.

    The Pirate Island Harry Collingwood
  • How beautifully would she improvise at times—for improvisations in truth were they, while she was quite unconscious of her gift.

British Dictionary definitions for improvise


to perform or make quickly from materials and sources available, without previous planning
to perform (a poem, play, piece of music, etc), composing as one goes along
Derived Forms
improviser, noun
Word Origin
C19: from French, from Italian improvvisare, from Latin imprōvīsus unforeseen, from im- (not) + prōvīsus, from prōvidēre to foresee; see provide
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for improvise

1826, back-formation from improvisation, or else from French improviser (17c.), from Italian improvisare "to sing or speak extempore," from improviso, from Latin improvisus "unforeseen, unexpected" (see improvisation). Or possibly a back-formation from improvisation. Related: Improvised; improvising.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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