ī-ˈdē-ə How to pronounce idea (audio)
ˈī-(ˌ)dē-ə How to pronounce idea (audio)
 or  ˈī-dē
: a formulated thought or opinion
: whatever is known or supposed about something
a child's idea of time
: the central meaning or chief end of a particular action or situation
: a plan for action : design
: a standard of perfection : ideal
: a transcendent entity that is a real pattern of which existing things are imperfect representations
: an entity (such as a thought, concept, sensation, or image) actually or potentially present to consciousness
: an indefinite or unformed conception
obsolete : an image recalled by memory
Christian Science : an image in Mind
archaic : a visible representation of a conception : a replica of a pattern
ī-ˈdē-ə-ləs How to pronounce idea (audio)
 also  ˈī-(ˌ)dē-ə-
 or  ˈī-dē-
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.
Recent Examples on the Web The one obvious candidate blending the two talents is GE Aerospace CEO Larry Culp, who greatly streamlined GE’s manufacturing engine, frequently touring the assembly lines in person and swapping ideas for moving parts faster and safer with welders and machinists. Shawn Tully, Fortune, 13 Apr. 2024 The organizers had initially resisted that idea but changed course after several fans expressed concerns about health and proper hydration at the outdoor event. Jeff A. Chamer, Charlotte Observer, 13 Apr. 2024 Kids of all ages wore the sunglasses on sunny and overcast days to get an idea of protection in various weather conditions. Staff Author, Parents, 13 Apr. 2024 Even the conservative Wall Street Journal editorial board flagged this as a bad idea. Philip Elliott, TIME, 12 Apr. 2024 What was the initial idea that sparked this dialogue with the place and its architecture? Caterina De Biasio, Vogue, 12 Apr. 2024 Obviously, there is Offerman’s fascistic president who is serving a third term and has disbanded the FBI—two things similar to ideas Trump has wondered aloud about in the past. David Gilbert, WIRED, 12 Apr. 2024 Rather than, like everyone else, seeking out youth, might a music director with a little actual experience prove to be the most radical idea for the current needs of the most radical major orchestra? Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times, 12 Apr. 2024 Even more surprising than the April Fools' Day prank was not all commenters thought the flavor was a bad idea. The Enquirer, 1 Apr. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'idea.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

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

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

Dictionary Entries Near idea

Cite this Entry

“Idea.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


ī-ˈdē-ə How to pronounce idea (audio)
: a plan of action : intention
my idea is to study law
: something imagined or pictured in the mind : notion
form an idea of a place from reading
: a central meaning or purpose
the idea of the game is to score goals
: comprehension sense 2
had no idea what he meant
: an opinion or belief
has some strange ideas
idealess adjective

Medical Definition

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

More from Merriam-Webster on idea

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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