Definition of imperial in English:



  • 1Relating to an empire.

    ‘Britain's imperial past’
    • ‘Provided that the barbarians remained amenable, any of these arrangements might suit the gentry better than direct imperial rule.’
    • ‘The two imperial allies soon began to suspect one another, and the great offensive fell apart.’
    • ‘In my opinion, to demand and accept an election under the protection of an occupying imperial army could only lead to further collaboration.’
    • ‘In origin, the warlords were mostly former soldiers of the imperial and republican armies, bandits, or local officials.’
    • ‘By 1900 it had slipped to fourth place, overtaken by its imperial and European rivals, Britain and Germany.’
    • ‘And therefore little has changed regarding the urgency of transcending imperial and neo-colonial domination.’
    • ‘The process was comparable to the way Byzantine imperial power dismantled Roman lineage rights.’
    • ‘And as they did in the imperial era, the lonely men of the remote hinterland clamour for a wife with potentially profound consequences for the entire nation.’
    • ‘But he never explains that imperial take-off followed the creation of the United Kingdom state.’
    • ‘I do not call it imperial because Australia and New Zealand were then dominions.’
    • ‘The Russian imperial throne was the first monarchical casualty of the most catastrophic conflict to date in European history, the First World War.’
    • ‘The defining characteristic of the British Empire was competition, both military and economic, with rival imperial powers.’
    • ‘Will we, or our imperial president, choose empire or will we re-discover ourselves and return to the historic principles of non-intervention?’
    • ‘Rome was already competing with Constantinople as imperial capital of the Christian world.’
    • ‘Spain also had great imperial ambitions from the sixteenth century but a limited supply of suitable forest.’
    • ‘Russian conquests in Asia were certainly no less brutal than those of any other expanding imperial power.’
    • ‘Is it just a matter of making amends for the damage we did earlier as imperial powers?’
    • ‘Much was lost in the 8th and 9th centuries as both the Saracens and the Byzantines took advantage of imperial and papal weakness.’
    • ‘In the Roman imperial period, even emperors practised the arts of painting and sculpture.’
    • ‘We are, de facto, the world empire, the world imperial authority.’
    royal, regal, monarchal, monarchial, monarchical, sovereign, kingly, queenly, princely, majestic
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    1. 1.1 Relating to an emperor.
      ‘the imperial family’
      • ‘There are also many records of emperors who were addicted to playing cuju being criticized by officials and other members of the imperial family.’
      • ‘She married into the imperial family by wedding Crown Prince Naruhito, next in line for Japan's Chrysanthemum Throne.’
      • ‘It was believed that the yellow colour was to be reserved especially for the imperial family, so it was a very high honour for the emperor to grant a yellow outfit to an ordinary person.’
      • ‘You have access to the imperial palace and the Emperor's chambers.’
      • ‘The tradition continued for 30 years in the Romanov imperial family.’
      • ‘After the establishment of the imperial court under the Emperor Charles IV in Prague in the 14th century, the city became an important centre for the arts.’
      • ‘However, the domestic life of the imperial family was, considering their status, not ostentatious.’
      • ‘It is the only quarter of the imperial family's home open to the public and offers a little idyll in the chaos and concrete of Tokyo.’
      • ‘For any official serving the imperial family, respecting the emperor's mother was also a necessity, which lent support from the moral angle to concubines running State affairs.’
      • ‘In this 21st century society, with its diverse male and female lifestyles, the imperial family can no longer function as a model, let alone a symbol of national unity.’
      • ‘But the inability of Japan's imperial family to produce a male heir has led to an internal crisis of sorts about who will be the next person to inherit the throne.’
      • ‘Guests included members of the imperial family, diplomats, business leaders and society.’
      • ‘‘It is my sincere dream, and a great honor, to host the imperial couple, the Emperor and the Empress, in Poland,’ he said.’
      • ‘He soon moved against the imperial family, executing first the emperor's mother, Maria, and then young Alexius himself in November.’
      • ‘In olden times, this area was a favorite hunting ground of the imperial family, with forests and lakes for picnics.’
      • ‘So it is pleasantly ironic that the dearth of male births in the imperial family looks set to force a change in the succession law to allow the first empress since 1771.’
      • ‘The emperor had his imperial residence for centuries in Kyoto.’
      • ‘The birth of the prince imperial was a difficult one and no further children were conceived.’
      • ‘If the prince goes as an official guest of the state, it would mark the first visit to the former Japanese colony by a member of the imperial family since the end of World War II.’
      • ‘Sometimes, actors perform for travellers, enacting scenes from the Manchu imperial family's traditional ceremonies.’
    2. 1.2 Majestic or magnificent.
      ‘the bedroom is huge and very imperial’
      • ‘The bedroom reflects Dalí's most extravagant tendencies, as illustrated by the imposing imperial style of the beds.’
      • ‘It is also famous for being one of Europe's grandest imperial cities.’
      majestic, grand, dignified, proud, stately, noble, aristocratic, regal
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    3. 1.3 Imperious or domineering.
      ‘the party and its autocratic—many would say imperial—ways’
      • ‘The most imperial of tiger shooting governor-generals is thus refashioned into a cuddly environmentalist.’
      • ‘I faced the dark form beside me and used my best imperial voice.’
      • ‘Fundamentalists may thus act in an imperial or aggressive or violent manner.’
      imperious, high-handed, commanding, peremptory, dictatorial, domineering, bossy, arrogant, overweening, overbearing, authoritarian, tyrannical, authoritative, lordly, officious
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  • 2Relating to or denoting the system of non-metric weights and measures (the ounce, pound, stone, inch, foot, yard, mile, acre, pint, gallon, etc.) formerly used for all measures in the UK, and still used for some.

    • ‘Today, if you are a grocer, you will lose your shirt simply for weighing produce in the old imperial system.’
    • ‘He has won four world titles and holds the world record over the 1,500 and its imperial equivalent, the mile.’
    • ‘In the imperial system, 36 inches are 1 yard and 1760 yards are 1 mile.’
    • ‘The men had all been involved in court cases after refusing to post the weights of their produce in metric as well as imperial measurements.’
    • ‘The metric system and the imperial system symbolize beautifully the conflict between the European and the Anglo-Saxon method of thought.’
    • ‘The Metric Martyr Defence Fund added that any political party that supported moves to abolish the imperial system ‘would get a pounding’.’
    • ‘Whether traders in this country choose to sell in imperial or metric units should be a matter between them and their customers.’
    • ‘How much honey, in imperial pounds, will we get?’
    • ‘To the relief of many - although not the younger generation schooled in metric measures - imperial weights look set to be saved.’
    • ‘Many weight standards appear to have been used well into Medieval times, but the new find suggests an imperial ounce was adopted in the English world, away from the Viking Danelaw of eastern England.’
    • ‘These systems seem over-complicated when compared to one of the simplest of all, the decimal system, yet we resist any efforts to change from imperial measurements to metric.’
    • ‘I didn't convert the reference to metric because it loses its impact and anyway, I'm old enough to be still working in imperial weights and measures.’
    • ‘But being a mere male who doesn't cook turkeys every week, and who was brought up using imperial weight measurements, I trusted in the packaging instructions.’
    • ‘Mind you, we are staunchly imperial on volume: pints of beer, gallons of petrol, and who the heck knows what a hectolitre is?’
    • ‘The imperial system is cumbersome, difficult and the only thing in its favour is that we know it.’
    • ‘Stone is an arcane imperial measurement that has somehow weathered the tests of time in Ireland and the UK, especially in regard to the weight of people.’
    • ‘The warning came after undercover officers bought a bunch of grapes from him in imperial weight.’
    • ‘Yet traders can be fined for selling goods in imperial weights.’
    • ‘Long after it became illegal to sell in anything but metric weights, Delia still includes imperial measures in her recipes.’
    • ‘Within each heading both imperial and metric units are defined.’
  • 3historical (of a size of paper, in the UK) measuring 762 × 559 mm (30 × 22 inches).

    • ‘He did at least 72 of the 150 paintings for the imperial folio edition and 5 additional plates for the octavo edition.’
    • ‘The paper size is imperial folio, that's almost as big as today's standard A2 page, which is equal to four standard A4 sheets.’
    • ‘The five volumes consisted of an octavo of 786 pages of descriptive matter and four imperial folios containing 213 plates.’


  • A small pointed beard growing below the lower lip (associated with Napoleon III of France).

    • ‘The poet wore a luxuriant black moustache and imperial, and a slouched hat which shaded the forehead.’


Late Middle English: via Old French from Latin imperialis, from imperium ‘command, authority, empire’; related to imperare ‘to command’. Compare with emperor, empire, also with imperious.