imag·​i·​nary | \ i-ˈma-jə-ˌner-ē How to pronounce imaginary (audio) , -ˌne-rē \

Definition of imaginary

1a : existing only in imagination : lacking factual reality
b : formed or characterized imaginatively or arbitrarily his canvases, chiefly imaginary, somber landscapesCurrent Biography
2 : containing or relating to the imaginary unit imaginary roots

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Other Words from imaginary

imaginarily \ i-​ˌma-​jə-​ˈner-​ə-​lē How to pronounce imaginary (audio) \ adverb
imaginariness \ i-​ˈma-​jə-​ˌner-​ē-​nəs How to pronounce imaginary (audio) \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for imaginary

imaginary, fanciful, visionary, fantastic, chimerical, quixotic mean unreal or unbelievable. imaginary applies to something which is fictitious and purely the product of one's imagination. an imaginary desert isle fanciful suggests the free play of the imagination. a teller of fanciful stories visionary stresses impracticality or incapability of realization. visionary schemes fantastic implies incredibility or strangeness beyond belief. a fantastic world inhabited by monsters chimerical combines the implication of visionary and fantastic. chimerical dreams of future progress quixotic implies a devotion to romantic or chivalrous ideals unrestrained by ordinary prudence and common sense. a quixotic crusade

Examples of imaginary in a Sentence

The two groups were separated by an imaginary line down the middle of the room. an imaginary world of dragons and unicorns
Recent Examples on the Web The study also found people were pausing during their sleep talk conversation to let an imaginary person talk back to them before responding. Megan Marples, CNN, 25 July 2021 The prosecutors contended that the three-mile limit for California’s waters should be calculated from an imaginary line in the Pacific connecting the bay’s two headlands: Point Vicente and Point Dume. Los Angeles Times, 26 May 2021 Spider-Man pressed his hands against an imaginary screen, like a mime trying to escape. Neima Jahromi, The New Yorker, 23 Aug. 2021 Next week, Robyn disinvites Wendy from her imaginary wedding. Shamira Ibrahim, Vulture, 22 Aug. 2021 For his 52nd and final pass, Prescott pump-faked an imaginary defender before finding Elliott on a shallow pass over the middle. Michael Gehlken, Dallas News, 21 Aug. 2021 The real numbers, rational numbers, imaginary numbers and so on are all sets in their own right, leaving no shortage of objects for mathematicians to study. Quanta Magazine, 10 Aug. 2021 Bly's very real journey actually bested its imaginary inspiration by eight days. Cailey Rizzo, Travel + Leisure, 9 Aug. 2021 Match each real or imaginary person in the left-hand column with his or her perfect literary title in the right-hand column. Richard Lederer, San Diego Union-Tribune, 7 Aug. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'imaginary.' 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 imaginary

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for imaginary

Middle English ymaginarie, borrowed from Latin imāginārius "unreal, fictitious (in law)," from imāgin-, imāgō "representation, semblance, image entry 1" + -ārius -ary entry 2

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Learn More About imaginary

Time Traveler for imaginary

Time Traveler

The first known use of imaginary was in the 15th century

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Dictionary Entries Near imaginary



imaginary number

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Statistics for imaginary

Last Updated

9 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Imaginary.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Sep. 2021.

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More Definitions for imaginary



English Language Learners Definition of imaginary

: not real : existing only in your mind or imagination


imag·​i·​nary | \ i-ˈma-jə-ˌner-ē How to pronounce imaginary (audio) \

Kids Definition of imaginary

: existing only in the imagination : not real an imaginary world


imag·​i·​nary | \ im-ˈaj-ə-ˌner-ē How to pronounce imaginary (audio) \

Medical Definition of imaginary

: existing only in imagination : lacking factual reality imaginary fears an imaginary illness

More from Merriam-Webster on imaginary

Nglish: Translation of imaginary for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of imaginary for Arabic Speakers


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