Definition of imaginary in English:



  • 1Existing only in the imagination.

    ‘Chris had imaginary conversations with her’
    • ‘The only saving grace is that most children take it for granted that spirits and the like are imaginary beings.’
    • ‘There exist countless instances of the type, present and past, real and imaginary, actual and potential.’
    • ‘He invented imaginary worlds in which he was the king, and everyone had obey him.’
    • ‘Fears of vote-tampering and vote suppression are far from exaggerated or imaginary.’
    • ‘This image is of an imaginary circle that each person draws around him/herself.’
    • ‘Is an imaginary campaign manager really the worst political decision you've heard lately?’
    • ‘While he talks, his feet move constantly - tapping away to an imaginary beat.’
    • ‘In the first place, the film depicts some imaginary breed of gracious and principled gangsters.’
    • ‘How they coped with this transfer of power is a vital part of these imaginary conversations.’
    • ‘It lies halfway between Orkney and Shetland on an imaginary line dividing the North Sea from the North Atlantic.’
    • ‘To escape reality, I invented an imaginary world and began writing poetry.’
    • ‘I bowed to an imaginary crowd and pretended to thank my parents and all who believed in me.’
    • ‘Don't get into obeying imaginary voices in your head or anything daft like that.’
    • ‘Not only is he a modern star playing a classic star, he's playing him as an imaginary figure.’
    • ‘I couldn't go into my own imaginary world far away and try to block out all of these problems.’
    • ‘The blood was fake and the flames imaginary, but the task facing the emergency services could have been very real.’
    • ‘The mandala represents an imaginary palace that is contemplated during meditation.’
    • ‘This would mean that your imaginary satellite would need to be located out beyond all the planets, a dozen times as far away as Pluto.’
    • ‘The view that dreams are merely the imaginary fulfilments of repressed wishes is hopelessly out of date.’
    • ‘These fears are mainly imaginary, and most are born of a highly developed imagination gone astray.’
    unreal, non-existent, fictional, fictitious, pretend, make-believe, mythical, mythological, legendary, storybook, fanciful, fantastic
    made-up, dreamed-up, invented, concocted, fabricated, fancied, the product of someone's imagination
    illusory, illusive, figmental, hallucinatory, phantasmal, phantasmic, a figment of someone's imagination
    dreamy, dreamlike, shadowy, unsubstantial, chimerical, ethereal
    virtual, notional, hypothetical, theoretical
    assumed, supposed, suppositious
    View synonyms
  • 2Mathematics
    (of a number or quantity) expressed in terms of the square root of a negative number (usually the square root of −1, represented by i or j).

    See also complex
    • ‘What was most perplexing was that in using these subtle and imaginary numbers it was possible to solve cubic equations.’
    • ‘It also only worked, he noted, when certain imaginary parts of two complex numbers cancelled out.’
    • ‘The idea is based on an ingenious use of the properties of imaginary numbers.’


Late Middle English: from Latin imaginarius, from imago, imagin- image.