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

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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 The United States’ revived conversation about its legacy of slavery and the entrenched inequities that followed abolition led to a parallel soul-searching over the misdeeds of Europe’s imperial past. Washington Post, 26 May 2021 Sathnam Sanghera contemplates Britain’s imperial past—and haunted present Empireland. The Economist, 20 Feb. 2021 In the latter instance, in 1839, consul Thomas N. Carr from New York, both a lion and lioness showed up on the Legation doorstep after weeks of rumors of their impending arrival from the imperial court in. Graham Cornwell, Smithsonian Magazine, 17 May 2021 Forty years later, Iran continues to brandish the Palestinian cause to shore up its anti-imperial credentials and project power in the region, posing as the only true defender of the Palestinians. Kim Ghattas, The Atlantic, 16 May 2021 During the war, the movement became decidedly anti-imperial and increasingly militaristic. Evert Kleynhans, Quartz, 15 May 2021 In Japan, for example, Colley does not much highlight the rising demands from below for more rights, which persuaded the Meiji oligarchs to consolidate imperial rule through a constitution. Washington Post, 14 May 2021 In addition to being a member of the British royal family, Prince Michael is also distantly related to the Romanovs, the last imperial family of Russia. Caroline Hallemann, Town & Country, 10 May 2021 In addition, political prisoners churned through imperial prison systems that were kept largely out of view of the press. Thomas Meaney, The New Yorker, 10 May 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun 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

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.

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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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Time Traveler for imperial

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for imperial

Last Updated

4 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Imperial.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 Jun. 2021.

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More Definitions for imperial



English Language Learners Definition of imperial

: of or relating to an empire or an emperor


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


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