adjective imag·i·nary \ i-ˈma-jə-ˌner-ē , -ˌne-rē \
Updated on: 10 May 2018

Definition of imaginary

1 a : existing only in imagination : lacking factual reality
b : formed or characterized imaginatively or arbitrarily
  • his canvases, chiefly imaginary, somber landscapes
  • Current Biography
2 : containing or relating to the imaginary unit
  • imaginary roots


play \i-ˌma-jə-ˈner-ə-lē\ adverb


play \i-ˈma-jə-ˌner-ē-nəs\ noun

Examples of imaginary in a Sentence

  1. The two groups were separated by an imaginary line down the middle of the room.

  2. an imaginary world of dragons and unicorns

Recent Examples of imaginary from the Web

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

Origin and Etymology of imaginary

Middle English ymaginarie, borrowed from Latin imāginārius "unreal, fictitious (in law)," from imāgin-, imāgō "representation, semblance, 1image" + -ārius 2-ary

Synonym Discussion of 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

IMAGINARY Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of imaginary for English Language Learners

  • : not real : existing only in your mind or imagination

IMAGINARY Defined for Kids


adjective imag·i·nary \ i-ˈma-jə-ˌner-ē \

Definition of imaginary for Students

: existing only in the imagination : not real
  • an imaginary world

Medical Dictionary


adjective imag·i·nary \ im-ˈaj-ə-ˌner-ē \

medical Definition of imaginary

: existing only in imagination : lacking factual reality
  • imaginary fears
  • an imaginary illness

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