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 Your kids can build 3D models of imaginary friends, invent complex palaces and buildings, or create sturdy structures. Popular Science, "Magnetic building toys for creative kids," 10 Feb. 2020 Months after its release, the concept still stuns: a cute little tyke, who happens to be in the Hitler Youth, dreams up the Führer as an imaginary friend. Michael Schulman, The New Yorker, "Oscars 2020 Spotlight: Best Picture," 7 Feb. 2020 Tiny homes for imaginary inhabitants will be in the spotlight in Stevenson Park when the Friendswood Fairy Trail opens on June 5. Carissa D. Lamkahouan, Houston Chronicle, "Attention Tinker Bell: Date set for opening of Friendswood fairy trail," 4 Feb. 2020 Using a disinformation campaign, coupled with the targeting of transportation infrastructure, hackers managed to bring an imaginary city to a standstill, sowing chaos and forcing officials to cancel the election altogether. Pete Gelling, Quartz, "Even the famously low-tech Iowa caucus is facing fears of election hacking," 2 Feb. 2020 In stagings, Jochanaan (John the Baptist) mostly sings from an imaginary cistern, his voice amplified with artificial reverberation. Scott Cantrell, Dallas News, "Fabio Luisi leads semi-staged Strauss 'Salome’ with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra," 1 Feb. 2020 The chief justice’s imaginary togas do not really cover the naked determination of that majority to make the Senate subservient to the president’s desires. Fintan O’toole, The New York Review of Books, "Whatever He Wants," 30 Jan. 2020 Taika Waititi’s fable of a boy whose best friend is an imaginary Hitler and who then discovers his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their home is one of the sweetest, funniest and heartfelt movies of the year. Borys Kit, The Hollywood Reporter, "Heat Vision's Top 10 Movies of 2019," 31 Dec. 2019 Waititi plays the boy’s imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler., "Capsule movie reviews, Dec. 29," 24 Dec. 2019

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

15 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Imaginary.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Feb. 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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