\ī-ˈdē-ə, -ˈdēə also ˈī-(ˌ)dē-ə or ˈī-dē\

Definition of idea 

1 : a formulated thought or opinion

2 : whatever is known or supposed about something a child's idea of time

3 : the central meaning or chief end of a particular action or situation

4a : a plan for action : design

b : a standard of perfection : ideal

c : a transcendent entity that is a real pattern of which existing things are imperfect representations

5a : an entity (such as a thought, concept, sensation, or image) actually or potentially present to consciousness

b : an indefinite or unformed conception

c obsolete : an image recalled by memory

6 Christian Science : an image in Mind

7 archaic : a visible representation of a conception : a replica of a pattern

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Other Words from idea

idealess \ ī-​ˈdē-​ə-​ləs , -​ˈdēə-​ also  ˈī-​(ˌ)dē-​ə-​ or  ˈī-​dē-​ \ adjective

Choose the Right Synonym for idea

idea, concept, conception, thought, notion, impression mean what exists in the mind as a representation (as of something comprehended) or as a formulation (as of a plan). idea may apply to a mental image or formulation of something seen or known or imagined, to a pure abstraction, or to something assumed or vaguely sensed. innovative ideas my idea of paradise concept may apply to the idea formed by consideration of instances of a species or genus or, more broadly, to any idea of what a thing ought to be. a society with no concept of private property conception is often interchangeable with concept; it may stress the process of imagining or formulating rather than the result. our changing conception of what constitutes art thought is likely to suggest the result of reflecting, reasoning, or meditating rather than of imagining. commit your thoughts to paper notion suggests an idea not much resolved by analysis or reflection and may suggest the capricious or accidental. you have the oddest notions impression applies to an idea or notion resulting immediately from some stimulation of the senses. the first impression is of soaring height

Examples of idea in a Sentence

My idea is to study law. Starting her own business seemed like a good idea at the time, but it turned out badly. Whose idea was it to leave so early? My idea was that if we left early we could beat the crowd. Buying the car was a bad idea. I have some ideas for redecorating the room. He has an idea for a movie. I'm not sure what to do next. Do you have any ideas? She's always full of new ideas. It's a good idea to talk to people who have actually been there.
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Recent Examples on the Web

Mary Barra’s name showing up on a Tesla business card is a far-fetched idea. John D. Stoll, WSJ, "Tesla’s Musk Needs to Find His Mary Barra," 13 July 2018 Crane wasn’t sure that reopening the investigation was a good idea. Petula Dvorak, Washington Post, "Funeral for Emmett Till, lynched in 1955, unfolds every day in the nation’s capital," 12 July 2018 According to Cass, a mobile-only ticketing system is not a Ravens-only idea. Katherine Fominykh,, "Ravens announce digital ticketing for game days, new 4K video boards at M&T Bank Stadium," 12 July 2018 Keeping the name, a solid name brand, would be a smart idea. Phoebe Wall Howard, Detroit Free Press, "You’ll never guess what the new Ford Fusion looks like," 11 July 2018 That way, proponents of the idea say, the tribe could have influence over its children's education but leave the administrative lifting to an outside company. Alden Woods, azcentral, "In the Grand Canyon, Havasupai parents want to regain control over failing school," 10 July 2018 Here’s the real cost: Anthony is a similar idea on the roster as Justise Winslow, Kelly Olynyk and James Johnson. Dave Hyde,, "Hyde5: Would Carmelo Anthony really help the Heat?," 9 July 2018 Yet our society is still holding on to a lot of old ideas about who does what in the workforce and at home. Kristen Bellstrom, Fortune, "Helen Rodriguez Trias, Patricia Okoumou, New Voices: Broadsheet July 9th," 9 July 2018 Numerous groups over the decades have proposed towing icebergs everywhere from India to the Middle East to California, and in 1973 the RAND Corporation even wrote an 83-page study on the idea. Avery Thompson, Popular Mechanics, "Cape Town Wants to Tow an Iceberg to Solve Its Water Shortage," 6 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'idea.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of idea

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4c

History and Etymology for idea

Middle English, from Latin, from Greek, from idein to see — more at wit

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Statistics for idea

Last Updated

3 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for idea

The first known use of idea was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for idea



English Language Learners Definition of idea

: a thought, plan, or suggestion about what to do

: an opinion or belief

: something that you imagine or picture in your mind


\ī-ˈdē-ə \

Kids Definition of idea

1 : a thought or plan about what to do Surprising her was a bad idea.

2 : something imagined or pictured in the mind I had an idea of what the town was like.

3 : an understanding of something I have no idea what you mean.

4 : a central meaning or purpose The idea of the game is to keep from getting caught.

5 : an opinion or belief What gave you that idea?


\ī-ˈdē-ə, ˈīd-(ˌ)ē-ə \

Medical Definition of idea 

1 : an entity (as a thought, concept, sensation, or image) actually or potentially present to consciousness

2 : a formulated thought or opinion

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Comments on idea

What made you want to look up idea? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to clear from alleged fault or guilt

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