imag·​i·​nary | \ i-ˈma-jə-ˌner-ē How to pronounce imaginary (audio) , -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 How to pronounce imaginarily (audio) \ adverb
imaginariness \ i-​ˈma-​jə-​ˌner-​ē-​nəs How to pronounce imaginariness (audio) \ 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 The point here isn’t for companies to balance their lifetime carbon debt on some imaginary ledger. Robinson Meyer, The Atlantic, "The Weekly Planet: A Start-Up’s Unusual Plan to Suck Carbon Out of the Sky," 24 Nov. 2020 Not all parents who engage in imaginary play with their children are getting diagnosed with covid-19, or brainstorming outside-the-box vaccine ideas. Washington Post, "Covid has invaded our kids’ pretend play. Experts say it’s a good thing.," 23 Nov. 2020 Morris also served as an essayist for Rolling Stone magazine, wrote a trilogy on the rise of the British Empire and devoted an entire volume to a Mediterranean destination, Hav, that was eerily compelling and entirely imaginary. Christopher Reynolds, Los Angeles Times, "Appreciation: My lunch with Jan Morris, writer, traveler, transgender pioneer," 20 Nov. 2020 These prints are from a series created by NASA, and feature imaginary tourism campaigns for alien worlds. Sara Chodosh, Popular Science, "Science-themed decor to beautify any nerdy home," 19 Nov. 2020 In school, probability lessons often begin with flipping lots of imaginary coins. Quanta Magazine, "Some Math Problems Seem Impossible. That Can Be a Good Thing.," 18 Nov. 2020 Naturally, being of the ruling class, he is acquitted: Self-defense, the judge decides, applies even if the threat is imaginary. Jesse Green, New York Times, "A Golden Team, a Terrible Title and a Show That Vanished," 2 Nov. 2020 Much like Trump did in 2016, QAnon exploits and even feeds on some Americans' fear that there is no one championing their interests and protecting them from their enemies — no matter how imaginary. Sarah Midkiff,, "How QAnon Went From A Fringe Conspiracy Theory To A Political Movement," 26 Oct. 2020 In a novel that blurs fact and fiction, Akhtar meditates on what is real, what is imaginary, and what has been hiding in plain sight. Anjali Enjeti Special To The Star Tribune, Star Tribune, "Review: 'Homeland Elegies,' by Ayad Akhtar," 11 Sep. 2020

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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Time Traveler for imaginary

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for imaginary

Last Updated

1 Dec 2020

Cite this Entry

“Imaginary.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Dec. 2020.

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More Definitions for imaginary


How to pronounce imaginary (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of imaginary

: not real : existing only in your mind or imagination


imag·​i·​nary | \ i-ˈma-jə-ˌner-ē How to pronounce imaginary (audio) \

Kids Definition of imaginary

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


imag·​i·​nary | \ im-ˈaj-ə-ˌner-ē How to pronounce imaginary (audio) \

Medical Definition of imaginary

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

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