im·​pe·​ri·​al | \ im-ˈpir-ē-əl How to pronounce imperial (audio) \

Definition of imperial

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : of, relating to, befitting, or suggestive of an empire or an emperor
b(1) : of or relating to the United Kingdom as distinguished from the constituent parts
(2) : of or relating to the Commonwealth of Nations and British Empire
3 : of superior or unusual size or excellence
4 : belonging to the official British series of weights and measures — see Weights and Measures Table



Definition of imperial (Entry 2 of 2)

1 capitalized : an adherent or soldier of the Holy Roman emperor
2 : emperor
3 : a pointed beard growing below the lower lip
4 : something of unusual size or excellence

Other Words from imperial


imperially \ im-​ˈpir-​ē-​ə-​lē How to pronounce imperial (audio) \ adverb

Examples of imperial in a Sentence

Adjective a member of the imperial family envisioned an imperial city that would rival the capitals of Europe for beauty and magnificence
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective And this era-defining war is, at its core, a culture war: an imperial incursion buttressed by misrepresentations of history, language and religion. New York Times, 31 July 2022 In the early 1930s, amid the prospect of a Japanese invasion of Beijing, the Chinese government moved parts of the imperial collection south to Shanghai and Nanjing. Wayne Chang, CNN, 29 July 2022 Onoda never forsakes imperial delusions or goes native in the woods. Boyd Tonkin, WSJ, 29 July 2022 In addition to the food, Rabid’s beer was flowing, including Horus Reborn, an imperial quintuple IPA that clocks in at 16.5% alcohol by volume. Bill Jones, Chicago Tribune, 25 July 2022 For roughly half a century, after all, U.S. foreign policy was largely oriented around dealing with external competitors: imperial Japan, Nazi Germany and then the Soviet Union. Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, 25 July 2022 But the more important influence on Mr. Abe was his grandfather, the former Prime Minister Kishi Nobusuke, a member of imperial Japan’s wartime Cabinet who was arrested but never tried as a war criminal by the American occupation. Daniel Sneider, The Christian Science Monitor, 11 July 2022 The crosshairs of his cynicism veered away from the imperial power centers of Washington, London, Moscow, and Berlin toward bloody, provincial despots like Slobodan Miloševic and Saddam Hussein and a constellation of religious fanatics. Christian Lorentzen, Harper’s Magazine , 20 July 2022 In his youth, according to La Repubblica, Mr. Scalfari had shared the enthusiasms of many young people drawn to the imperial Roman mythology of Italian Fascism under Benito Mussolini. New York Times, 16 July 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun When gathered together, the medieval with the modern, the national with the imperial, and the abundant with the rare, these diverse monetary objects provide a bird’s-eye view of the last millennia. Ellen Feingold, Smithsonian Magazine, 22 July 2022 Intentionally or not, Nichols’s imagery shows us that the intimate and the imperial in the American West were one and the same. Sarah Blackwood, The New Yorker, 18 July 2021 Stouts, porters and imperials are also staples in winter and mainstays on craft beer menus. Dahlia Ghabour, The Courier-Journal, 9 Dec. 2019 The seasoning is a must for steamed crabs and perfect for crab cakes, crab imperials, and the like. Dan Rodricks,, 12 May 2017 See More

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

First Known Use of imperial


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


circa 1524, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for imperial


Middle English imperial, emperiall, borrowed from Anglo-French & Latin; Anglo-French emperial, imperiall, borrowed from Latin imperiālis "of the Roman emperor," from imperium "supreme administrative authority, power exercised by a Roman emperor" + -ālis -al entry 1 — more at empire


derivative of imperial entry 1, probably after Middle French imperiaux (plural); (sense 3) translation of French impériale

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The first known use of imperial was in the 14th century

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Dictionary Entries Near imperial



Imperial Beach

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Last Updated

3 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Imperial.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for imperial


im·​pe·​ri·​al | \ im-ˈpir-ē-əl How to pronounce imperial (audio) \

Kids Definition of imperial

: of or relating to an empire or its ruler the imperial palace

More from Merriam-Webster on imperial

Nglish: Translation of imperial for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of imperial for Arabic Speakers


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