imag·​i·​nary i-ˈma-jə-ˌner-ē How to pronounce imaginary (audio)
: existing only in imagination : lacking factual reality
: formed or characterized imaginatively or arbitrarily
his canvases, chiefly imaginary, somber landscapesCurrent Biography
: containing or relating to the imaginary unit
imaginary roots
imaginarily adverb
imaginariness 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

Example Sentences

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 Suddenly, cars were allegedly stopping for imaginary hazards, misinterpreting street signs, and failing to detect obstacles such as emergency vehicles, according to complaints filed with regulators. Faiz Siddiqui, Washington Post, 19 Mar. 2023 The brand’s prints are like a kaleidoscope of color and were designed with an imaginary Mediterranean town in mind. Madeline Fass, Vogue, 14 Mar. 2023 If the guest mentions a secret, pre-determined ingredient, they are forcibly ejected from the establishment and disallowed from eating any imaginary food at all. Josh Sargent, Men's Health, 14 Mar. 2023 In public health, though, success is measured against counterfactual outcomes: hypothetical infections, conjectured suffering, imaginary deaths. Joel Achenbach, Anchorage Daily News, 12 Mar. 2023 One of the keys to writing science fiction, the author says, is trying to create an internally consistent imaginary world. Donna Wares, Los Angeles Times, 11 Mar. 2023 Scientists created fake LinkedIn profiles for imaginary job seekers with facial expressions ranging from grimacing to grinning. Orianna Rosa Royle, Fortune, 10 Mar. 2023 Why did Joe start imagining Rhys? Joe’s relationship with the imaginary Rhys is complex. Amy Mackelden, ELLE, 10 Mar. 2023 The complex plane is a way of graphing complex numbers, which have two parts: real and imaginary. Jordana Cepelewicz, Quanta Magazine, 9 Mar. 2023 See More

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.

Word History


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

First Known Use

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

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

Dictionary Entries Near imaginary

Cite this Entry

“Imaginary.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Mar. 2023.

Kids Definition


imag·​i·​nary im-ˈaj-ə-ˌner-ē How to pronounce imaginary (audio)
: existing only in imagination : not real
unicorns are imaginary

Medical Definition


imag·​i·​nary im-ˈaj-ə-ˌner-ē How to pronounce imaginary (audio)
: existing only in imagination : lacking factual reality
imaginary fears
an imaginary illness

More from Merriam-Webster on imaginary

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