\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

In the late 1980s and early 1990s most Republicans agreed with the idea that government should ensure citizens have enough to eat and a place to sleep. The Economist, "The welfare state needs updating," 12 July 2018 As his workload decreased in recent years, Mr. Wharton approached Mr. Roswell with the idea of starting a formal mentoring program for younger partners and associates. Frederick N. Rasmussen,, "John G. 'Jack' Wharton, noted real estate attorney, dies," 11 July 2018 Soon after Trump announced Kavanaugh’s nomination on Monday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who originally came up with the idea for the CFPB, sounded the alarms. Emily Stewart, Vox, "Consumer advocacy groups are extremely worried about Brett Kavanaugh," 11 July 2018 Sönmez, a Turkish immigrant, came up with the idea to create Bright Side after her own struggles with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Tyra Nicole Triche, Chicago Reader, "Arts / Immigration / Visual Art Love letters to the United States from immigrants are being left across Chicago," 10 July 2018 Two months after meeting Sean Parker, Mark Zuckerberg moved to Silicon Valley with the idea of turning his dorm‐room project into a real business. Adam Fisher, WIRED, "Sex, Beer, and Coding: Inside Facebook’s Wild Early Days," 10 July 2018 But four years ago, Leensa and nine of her friends came up with an idea to ensure children and adults alike in her area can not only eat fresh vegetables — but also enjoy them. Tammy Leitner, NBC News, "Teens work to address needs of 'food desert' with vegetable-based desserts," 7 July 2018 While Brooks came up with the idea of the show, generating lyrics like ‘‘Don’t be stupid, be a smarty, come and join the Nazi party,’’ Mr. Johnson created the campy, Busby Berkeley-like staging. Harrison Smith,, "Alan Johnson, 81, choreographer for Broadway and Mel Brooks," 14 July 2018 Jesse Lingard was one of a number of players to poke fun at the idea of football coming home, with Harry Maguire and Kyle Walker also making light of several pictures released in the media., "How Social Media Helped Create a Positive Atmosphere for England to Thrive in During World Cup Run," 12 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

6 Oct 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).


evasion of direct action or statement

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