imag·​i·​nary | \i-ˈma-jə-ˌner-ē, -ˌne-rē\

Definition of imaginary 

1a : existing only in imagination : lacking factual reality

b : formed or characterized imaginatively or arbitrarily his canvases, chiefly imaginary, somber landscapesCurrent Biography

2 : containing or relating to the imaginary unit imaginary roots

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Other Words from imaginary

imaginarily \ i-​ˌma-​jə-​ˈner-​ə-​lē \ adverb
imaginariness \ i-​ˈma-​jə-​ˌner-​ē-​nəs \ 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

Because clients are often tripped up by poor choices, Jerzy Gregorek has penned three slim volumes on food, rest and exercise — complete with imaginary conversations to guide one’s internal dialogue away from fatalistic, self-sabotaging behavior. Carolyne Zinko, San Francisco Chronicle, "Masters of the Silicon Valley fitness universe," 11 Jan. 2018 Certainly, the fans of Davis occupy a more rarefied space in the American imaginary than those of any Soundcloud rapper. Danielle Jackson, Longreads, "On Mourning, Learning a More Sober Fandom, and Letting Go," 28 June 2018 When the sun, Earth and the moon are aligned, Earth casts a shadow that projects out into the shape of an imaginary cone. Denise Chow /, NBC News, "Total lunar eclipse will turn the moon blood red later this month," 13 July 2018 Transform e-waste, hardware, books, and other odds and ends into real and imaginary creatures to take home., "Kids listings," 12 July 2018 There is the old favorite of waving an imaginary card in the air while trying to get an opponent cautioned. Joshua Robinson, WSJ, "Soccer’s New Favorite Pantomime," 6 July 2018 The artist, best known for his fantastical depictions of debauchery and comedic contoured caricatures of subjects both real and imaginary, explains that the current unstable environment lends artists a creative advantage. Dorian May, A-LIST, "Portrait of an Artist: George Condo," 5 July 2018 But the movie’s imaginary world forces him to make choices that seem unfair if not impossible — between political commitment and personal ambition, between love and power, between staying true to his friends and becoming a sellout. New York Times, "Review: ‘Sorry to Bother You,’ but Can I Interest You in a Wild Dystopian Satire?," 2 July 2018 Making fake biography, false history, concocting a half-imaginary existence out of the actual drama of my life is my life. Nelson Pressley, Washington Post, "Philip Roth, seminal author of comical and simmering discontents, dies at 85," 22 May 2018

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.

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First Known Use of imaginary

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

History and Etymology for imaginary

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

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Statistics for imaginary

Last Updated

11 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for imaginary

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

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More Definitions for imaginary



English Language Learners Definition of imaginary

: not real : existing only in your mind or imagination


imag·​i·​nary | \i-ˈma-jə-ˌner-ē \

Kids Definition of imaginary

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


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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Comments on imaginary

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