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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.
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 improvising
  • When he started to copy the fifth, he decided to stop at the repeat sign and try his hand at improvising the development.
  • Then he repeated it, and began improvising variations on the tune.
  • There's no improvising on the show-for one thing, there's no time for it.
  • Most of his performing was done for his family-telling jokes and improvising sketches.
  • Now jazzmen have taken to improvising musical instruments.
  • She was literally light on her feet, bopping around the auditorium, improvising silly moments and generally enjoying herself.
  • Must be capable of improvising and functioning for long hours under adverse conditions.
  • Activities for improvising settings and situations, expanding the use of improvisation, and improvising fables are provided.
  • The quartet's performance is a testament to the artistic freedom enjoyed by the improvising jazz musician.
  • Our easy-come, easy-go culture makes it unnecessary to develop a skill for improvising.
British Dictionary definitions for improvising


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 improvising



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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