im·​i·​tate ˈi-mə-ˌtāt How to pronounce imitate (audio)
imitated; imitating

transitive verb

: to follow as a pattern, model, or example
: mimic, counterfeit
can imitate his father's booming voice
: to be or appear like : resemble
: to produce a copy of : reproduce
imitator noun
Choose the Right Synonym for imitate

copy, imitate, mimic, ape, mock mean to make something so that it resembles an existing thing.

copy suggests duplicating an original as nearly as possible.

copied the painting and sold the fake as an original

imitate suggests following a model or a pattern but may allow for some variation.

imitate a poet's style

mimic implies a close copying (as of voice or mannerism) often for fun, ridicule, or lifelike imitation.

pupils mimicking their teacher

ape may suggest presumptuous, unoriginal, or inept imitating of a superior original.

American fashion designers aped their European colleagues

mock usually implies imitation with derision.

mocking a vain man's pompous manner

Example Sentences

Her style has been imitated by many other writers. He's very good at imitating his father's voice. She can imitate the calls of many different birds.
Recent Examples on the Web Members of the pack may imitate their leader's boldness or curiosity about cougar smells, leading to more wolves becoming infected. Byerik Stokstad,, 24 Nov. 2022 His action-spectacle chops imitate the Russo Brothers’ Marvel standard in several CGI set pieces yet lack Zack Snyder’s panache, the intense, kinetic aesthetic that dramatizes personal struggle against specific moral affront. Armond White, National Review, 11 Nov. 2022 These tools can imitate the look of traditionally physical mediums like airbrushing, acrylics, pastels, charcoal, oils, and pen. Jennet Jusu, Allure, 2 Nov. 2022 Pierce Clarkson is trying to imitate DJ Uiagalelei, who couldn’t beat Mater Dei until the Division 1 championship game his senior year. Eric Sondheimer, Los Angeles Times, 2 Oct. 2022 Someone's voice has a lot of different qualities, and trying to imitate Marilyn's voice in a movie that is mostly about Norma Jeane was going to be restrictive. Maureen Lee Lenker,, 23 Sep. 2022 Unfortunately, biomedical engineers have instead fixated on a different and less promising avenue: the development of artificial nanoparticles that imitate the function of natural exosomes for drug and small RNA delivery. Philip W. Askenase, Scientific American, 17 June 2020 This kicks off a stretch of five games before the bye in which the Patriots must imitate Zappe last Sunday and seize the opportunity. Christopher L. Gasper,, 4 Oct. 2022 Despite his profound admiration for Disney’s storytelling prowess, Bluth never aimed to imitate him. Carlos Aguilar, Los Angeles Times, 21 Aug. 2022 See More

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

Word History


borrowed from Latin imitātus, past participle of imitārī "to follow as a pattern, copy," frequentative derivative of a presumed verb *imā- "make a copy," perhaps going back to Indo-European *h2im-, whence also Hittite hima-, himma- "substitute, replica, toy"

Note: Aside from Hittite, evidence for an etymon *h2im- is lacking. See also etymology and note at emulous.

First Known Use

1534, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of imitate was in 1534

Dictionary Entries Near imitate

Cite this Entry

“Imitate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Nov. 2022.

Kids Definition



im·​i·​tate ˈim-ə-ˌtāt How to pronounce imitate (audio)
imitated; imitating
: to follow as a pattern, model, or example
: to be or appear similar to
: to copy exactly
imitator noun

More from Merriam-Webster on imitate

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