imag·​i·​nary i-ˈma-jə-ˌner-ē How to pronounce imaginary (audio)
: existing only in imagination : lacking factual reality
: formed or characterized imaginatively or arbitrarily
his canvases, chiefly imaginary, somber landscapesCurrent Biography
: containing or relating to the imaginary unit
imaginary roots
imaginarily adverb
imaginariness noun
Choose the Right Synonym for imaginary

imaginary, fanciful, visionary, fantastic, chimerical, quixotic mean unreal or unbelievable.

imaginary applies to something which is fictitious and purely the product of one's imagination.

an imaginary desert isle

fanciful suggests the free play of the imagination.

a teller of fanciful stories

visionary stresses impracticality or incapability of realization.

visionary schemes

fantastic implies incredibility or strangeness beyond belief.

a fantastic world inhabited by monsters

chimerical combines the implication of visionary and fantastic.

chimerical dreams of future progress

quixotic implies a devotion to romantic or chivalrous ideals unrestrained by ordinary prudence and common sense.

a quixotic crusade

Examples of imaginary in a Sentence

The two groups were separated by an imaginary line down the middle of the room. an imaginary world of dragons and unicorns
Recent Examples on the Web Your favorite imaginary friends are coming to streaming. Lexi Carson, Variety, 8 July 2024 Ryan Reynolds and John Krasinski’s imaginary friends have a date with Paramount+. Denise Petski, Deadline, 8 July 2024 From the first page of the book, Margaret whispers a prayer, as if conjuring an imaginary friend. Lizz Schumer, Peoplemag, 8 July 2024 The Boys’ Butcher now has an imaginary angel and an imaginary devil on his shoulder. Vlada Gelman, TVLine, 5 July 2024 See all Example Sentences for imaginary 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'imaginary.' 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 ymaginarie, borrowed from Latin imāginārius "unreal, fictitious (in law)," from imāgin-, imāgō "representation, semblance, image entry 1" + -ārius -ary entry 2

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of imaginary was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near imaginary

Cite this Entry

“Imaginary.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


imag·​i·​nary im-ˈaj-ə-ˌner-ē How to pronounce imaginary (audio)
: existing only in imagination : not real
unicorns are imaginary

Medical Definition


imag·​i·​nary im-ˈaj-ə-ˌner-ē How to pronounce imaginary (audio)
: existing only in imagination : lacking factual reality
imaginary fears
an imaginary illness

More from Merriam-Webster on imaginary

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