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

Definition of imitate

transitive verb

1 : to follow as a pattern, model, or example
2 : mimic, counterfeit can imitate his father's booming voice
3 : to be or appear like : resemble
4 : to produce a copy of : reproduce

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Other Words from imitate

imitator \ ˈi-​mə-​ˌtā-​tər How to pronounce imitate (audio) \ noun

Synonyms for imitate


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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, slavish, 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.
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Recent Examples on the Web The story’s plot is fast-paced, but the reason the text is compelling—and upsetting—is Lem’s skill at bending language to try to imitate a profoundly nonhuman voice. Elvia Wilk, The Atlantic, "How Will Machines Choose to Tell Stories?," 28 Mar. 2021 Many people may try to imitate your friendly demeanor. Tribune Content Agency, oregonlive, "Horoscope for March 6, 2021: Taurus, are you up for romance?; Leo, be sincere, cheerful," 6 Mar. 2021 Investigators created a decoy by placing about 100 grams of meth over 13 pounds of a mixture meant to imitate the drug in a package. Andy Mannix, Star Tribune, "Postal sting nets 13.5 pounds of meth bound for Minneapolis address, charges say," 6 Jan. 2021 The general rule is that songwriters should imitate spoken language as closely as possible, but the rule can be bent. Alex Ross, The New Yorker, "The Musicological Zest of “Switched On Pop”," 1 Mar. 2021 Seeing how the Dodgers had won a competitive advantage by overcoming prejudice, their rivals hastened to imitate them. Steve H. Hanke, National Review, "Asian-American Ivy League Applicants Can Trust Markets More Than Courts," 22 Feb. 2021 Large blue butterflies, for example, will imitate certain sounds to manipulate ants. Marion Renault, Star Tribune, "Beetle keeps rivals off scent of food buried for offspring," 17 Jan. 2021 Trump has cost the party once-reliable suburban voters and may have helped turn Georgia and Arizona bluer, which will possibly deter Republicans from continuing to imitate him. W. James Antle Iii, Washington Examiner, "Republicans recognizing that finishing with Trump is not the end of Trumpism," 17 Dec. 2020 In the Banyan Grove Rain Storm, for example, trees turn pink, turquoise, chartreuse and red while blinking white lights imitate rainfall. Los Angeles Times, "An L.A. Metro sign in the desert? 2020 continues," 3 Dec. 2020

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.

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First Known Use of imitate

1534, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for imitate

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.

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Time Traveler for imitate

Time Traveler

The first known use of imitate was in 1534

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Statistics for imitate

Last Updated

1 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Imitate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for imitate



English Language Learners Definition of imitate

: to make or do something the same way as (something else)
: to do the same thing as (someone)
: to copy (someone's or something's behavior, sound, appearance, etc.)


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

Kids Definition of imitate

1 : to follow as a pattern, model, or example He tried to imitate the older boys.
2 : to be or appear like : resemble The vinyl imitates leather.
3 : to copy exactly : mimic She can imitate bird calls.

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