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
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 imperially (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 Purple was stolen from sea snails and coded into imperial power. Matthew Sweet, The Economist, "The Line of Beauty Sex, anger, lust, danger: the semiotics of scarlet," 10 July 2020 Conservationists and art historians have raised concerns about what will happen to the medieval mosaics inside Hagia Sophia, which depict the Holy Family and portraits of imperial Christian emperors, which strict Muslims may demand be covered. Carlotta Gall,, "Erdogan signs decree allowing Hagia Sophia to be used as a mosque again," 10 July 2020 The act has reinvigorated calls for the removal of other statues from Britain’s imperial past. Fox News, "Toppled statue of 17th-century slave trader fished out of British harbor, taken to 'secure location'," 11 June 2020 Immerwahr tracks American imperial ambitions, from Puerto Rico to the Philippines, and how the treatment and exploitation of overseas territories still influence U.S. foreign and military policy. Rachel King, Fortune, "10 books on American history that actually reflect the United States," 4 July 2020 In 1774, after years of unfair taxation and imperial control, complaints against the British crown had reached a fever pitch in the 13 American colonies. Erin Blakemore, National Geographic, "America declared independence on July 2—so why is the 4th a holiday?," 2 July 2020 In the United Kingdom, this dispute has centered on the country's imperial history and legacy of slavery. Matthew Brown, USA TODAY, "Fact check: United Kingdom finished paying off debts to slave-owning families in 2015," 1 July 2020 Hong Kong enjoys semi-autonomous control in the region due to the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which established sovereignty after the British released Hong Kong from imperial rule and handed it over to China in 1997. Fox News, "Pompeo: US imposes restrictions on Chinese Communist Party leaders undermining Hong Kong autonomy," 26 June 2020 Rome’s defenses had not been breached in 800 years—not since a sack by the Gauls at the beginning of the fourth century b.c., long before Rome became an imperial power. Cullen Murphy, The Atlantic, "The Man Who Sacked Rome," 9 June 2020 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, "12 Days of Christmas beers: Try these seasonal craft brews on tap around Louisville," 9 Dec. 2019 The seasoning is a must for steamed crabs and perfect for crab cakes, crab imperials, and the like. Dan Rodricks,, "The care and handling of crab cakes," 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

21 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Imperial.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for imperial


How to pronounce imperial (audio)

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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