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

Example Sentences

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. See More
Recent Examples on the Web Replacing one of our cars, soon, might be a good idea. Scott Burns, Dallas News, 18 May 2023 Sign up to get the rest free, including news from around the globe and interesting ideas and opinions to know, sent to your inbox every weekday. Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, 17 May 2023 That’s such a smart idea because alcohol-free spirits are on the rise and in demand. Chris Gardner, The Hollywood Reporter, 17 May 2023 Have a news tip or story idea about the border and its communities? The Arizona Republic, 16 May 2023 From an upscale coffee machine to cool new gadgets to outdoorsy gifts for the upcoming summer, here are the best gift ideas to surprise the No. 1 guy in your life with on third Sunday of June. Sophie Dweck,, 16 May 2023 But in recent weeks, a once-obscure idea has come to the forefront. David G. Savage, Los Angeles Times, 16 May 2023 Email tips and story ideas to Claudette Riley, USA TODAY, 16 May 2023 These posts that often showcase the laborious cooking process, Wu said, have complicated our ideas of beauty and value. Kimmy Yam, NBC News, 15 May 2023 See More

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 30 May. 2023.

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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