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

Examples of imitate in a Sentence

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 Another, Voice of Atwood, claims to imitate the writer Margaret Atwood. Kate Knibbs, WIRED, 4 Apr. 2024 New stand-outs include the toro no toro, in which locally caught kingfish is enhanced with Flemish Holstein beef to imitate the fat of tuna belly and topped with Royal Belgian Caviar. Mary Winston Nicklin, Condé Nast Traveler, 2 Apr. 2024 For The Bear actor Lionel Boyce, art has imitated life. Meredith Lepore, Travel + Leisure, 15 Mar. 2024 Of course, Sweeney isn’t the first to try to conjure the likeness of the world’s most famous starlet — Anna Nicole Smith, Kim Kardashian, Madonna, Beyoncé and even James Franco are just a few who have purposefully imitated Monroe’s platinum coiffure and scarlet lips. Leah Dolan, CNN, 11 Mar. 2024 As the coaches sat on a bench, with iPads in hand, Ohtani grabbed his bat and imitated his batting stance. Jack Harris, Los Angeles Times, 2 Apr. 2024 While some spiders in the Corinnidae, Thomisidae, and Zodariidae families also mimic ants, other spiders imitate wasps, beetles, and flies — an indication that there are plenty of menacing critters out there, even if spiders aren’t one of them. Sam Walters, Discover Magazine, 28 Mar. 2024 In January, a deepfake robocall that phoned thousands of New Hampshire Democrats imitated Joe Biden’s voice with AI and told them not to vote in the primary election. Kevin Collier, NBC News, 19 Mar. 2024 Now, his literary guardians have put in front of the world the indignity of García Márquez imitating himself. Michael Greenberg, New York Times, 10 Mar. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'imitate.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

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 23 Apr. 2024.

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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