Definition of idea in US English:



  • 1A thought or suggestion as to a possible course of action.

    ‘they don't think it's a very good idea’
    • ‘Downing Street, however, described the suggestion as an idea, not a formal proposal.’
    • ‘I suggest a few ideas in my book, but as you say, who would have a go at cleaning it up in government?’
    • ‘This weekend I've been quite busy at work on a little project that came out of an idea that Tamsin suggested to me.’
    • ‘The scrutiny board is also looking for ideas on possible events and activities linked to the rivers.’
    • ‘Of the ten ideas suggested, five attracted significantly more votes than the rest.’
    • ‘This is of course a neat idea and Mo is a very generous man for doing it.’
    • ‘She had suggested the idea to David and Robbie whilst they were in Los Angeles recently.’
    • ‘Everyone liked her ideas but several suggested that she first talk to the mayor.’
    • ‘The Trust is also on the look out for new members to put forward suggestions and ideas for future projects.’
    • ‘None of this is to suggest that the driver retraining course is a bad idea or a soft option.’
    • ‘Of course, ideas like this will not be the only way in which people are encouraged to make a difference.’
    • ‘This year's exhibition will show how the latest ideas and suggestions are being developed.’
    • ‘Many of the audience have pledged to do far more than just one of the ideas suggested in the programme.’
    • ‘Even more could be spent if residents suggest good ideas to improve transport facilities.’
    • ‘I'll have a basic idea, of course, but depending on the texture of the wood and the shape of it, it kind of evolves.’
    • ‘We really want to hear what people think of this and to hear their ideas and suggestions.’
    • ‘Members are also asked to suggest activity ideas for the group to pursue during the year.’
    • ‘He suggested a number of ideas that would change the society and destiny of the island.’
    • ‘An English geologist has come up with one of the most ingenious ideas yet suggested.’
    • ‘If his ideas pay off, though, it won't be long before gates rise and monies come in.’
    plan, design, scheme, project, proposal, proposition, suggestion, recommendation, aim, intention, objective, object, purpose, end, goal, target
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    1. 1.1 A concept or mental impression.
      ‘our menu list will give you some idea of how interesting a low-fat diet can be’
      • ‘The implication is that the Chinese have either no idea of beauty or a wrong one.’
      • ‘Until my report later on this week, this might give you some idea of what it's like.’
      • ‘You don't get a really good idea of all the work that goes into the art that represents an album.’
      • ‘If you've been wondering what the book is about, this will give you a much better idea.’
      • ‘Once you run the numbers, you should have a fairly good idea of what you'll need to live on.’
      • ‘It was bizarre to speak to someone when I had absolutely no idea what they looked like.’
      • ‘He keeps trying to make deals with people who idea of deals is your capitulation.’
      • ‘Do you have any idea how much trouble I've gone through today to try to make it perfect for you?’
      • ‘When you did it, did you have any idea that it would last for decades and decades?’
      • ‘Do you have any idea how much money you are wasting to travel to all these places?’
      • ‘Also, check out the group of free songs here, to get some idea what I am going on and on about.’
      • ‘So do you have any idea who influenced the artist Kanye West when he was growing up?’
      • ‘Women probably have a better idea of the male world and male values than men do of women's.’
      • ‘Which gives you a pretty good idea of how trusted Col. Kline was by his fellow officers.’
      • ‘Do you have any idea how long a hold on new space shuttle takeoffs will continue?’
      • ‘I know how it feels to be judged by people who don't have any idea what's going on in your life.’
      • ‘He probably had the best idea of what was going on of anyone in this room, besides me, that is.’
      • ‘I recently got back into sabre fencing and I have a pretty good idea of how much I lost.’
      • ‘Many of us perhaps have little idea what it must be like to be in the depths of despair.’
      • ‘They have only the shakiest idea of the beliefs and principles of either.’
      • ‘Do you have any idea where they may have been staying in Thailand, if it was one of the beach resorts?’
      concept, notion, conception, conceptualization, thought, image, mental picture, visualization, abstraction, perception
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    2. 1.2 An opinion or belief.
      ‘nineteenth-century ideas about drinking’
      • ‘It is easy to think that the idea of the will to life is wrongly fixated on the idea that there are purposes in nature.’
      • ‘The idea that all workers must work until they drop from exhaustion is to approach the problem from the wrong end.’
      • ‘His responses suggest possible resistance to the idea that personal changes are needed.’
      • ‘In my opinion, these ideas and ideals are slipping fast, and we need to fight for them.’
      • ‘Of course, the idea that all men are created equal does not mean that all men are created the same.’
      • ‘It's time to give up, or at least to give up the idea that a unilingual public should be able to follow.’
      • ‘This of course entails the idea that the ruling ideology doesn't take itself seriously.’
      • ‘The idea was to meet as diverse a mix of people and hear as many differing ideas as was possible.’
      • ‘The idea that we must take action to avoid a Brave New World resonates powerfully within our culture.’
      • ‘Many of Galton's ideas were, of course, based on prejudices he brought to his science.’
      • ‘Instead we must turn to what is intelligible: the values, beliefs and ideas revealed by art.’
      • ‘Yet this has been accompanied by a huge growth in belief in the idea that our lives are ruled by the stars and in a world of spirits unknown to the sciences.’
      • ‘Of course, the idea that there really were boy knights fighting in the Middle Ages we now know to be a misconception.’
      • ‘What I love is the idea that the public needs to see punishment taking place.’
      • ‘What I don't understand is the idea that any criticism of America is not appropriate.’
      • ‘The terrorists must not allow the idea to spread around that you are safe so long as you are neither an unbeliever or a foreigner.’
      • ‘Absolutely and at the core of their approach was of course the idea that we are made up of the balance of four humours.’
      • ‘Part and parcel of Jewish belief is the idea that God entrusted His message to the Sages.’
      • ‘She was quiet for the whole session; she did not share her opinions or ideas on the text they were studying.’
      • ‘No other institution enjoys such sweeping powers to suppress the expression of opinions and ideas.’
      thought, theory, view, viewpoint, opinion, feeling, outlook, belief, judgement, conclusion
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  • 2the ideaThe aim or purpose.

    ‘I took a job with the idea of getting some money together’
    • ‘The whole idea of on-line courses is that everyone can study what they want.’
    • ‘If you were passing you wouldn't give this door a second look, which must have been the idea when they installed it.’
    • ‘It involves listening to the other side, not with the idea of debate but for the purpose of learning.’
    • ‘The idea, of course, is that customers are driven to HMV as soon as the New Year sales begin.’
    • ‘I suppose the original idea behind the award is to foster great comedy and to open it up to a broader range of performers and audiences.’
    • ‘The idea, I suppose, is that while Santa was fiddling the lock his reindeer would hover over the driveway.’
    • ‘In my opinion, the whole idea of Islamic Revolution was about the God's role in the society.’
    • ‘That they cut the phone line as well makes it more sinister and suggests that the idea was to endanger life.’
    • ‘There was a temptation to chuck it in the bin, but I suppose that defeats the idea.’
    • ‘Allan has other ideas, of course, and a bid for one or other of his rivals now looks certain.’
    • ‘Now it's emerged that Google and Comcast have their own ideas for a possible tie-up.’
    • ‘Surely the idea must have been to share it equally - and if it is his home too, should he be forced out of it?’
    • ‘Of course, the whole idea is to go there to concentrate and focus on the work, not on what to do in the evenings.’
    • ‘Perhaps the idea of us meeting up again was not the purpose of our encounter.’
    • ‘In fact, it's that good it would make you want to go out walking, which I suppose is the whole idea.’
    purpose, point, aim, object, objective, goal, intention, end, end in view, design, reason, use, utility, sense, motive
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  • 3Philosophy
    (in Platonic thought) an eternally existing pattern of which individual things in any class are imperfect copies.

    • ‘The idea "cat" is simply pure "catness" which exists and moves about the world of Ideas.’
    • ‘For example, the "Form" or "Idea" of a horse is intelligible, abstract, and applies to all horses.’
    1. 3.1 (in Kantian thought) a concept of pure reason, not empirically based in experience.
      • ‘In contrast, Kant calls the concepts of pure reason 'transcendental ideas.'’
      • ‘Kant nonetheless takes the ideas of God, the soul, and the world to have a valid philosophical use as “regulative,” i.e., for guiding the direction of inquiry to be all the more encompassing in scope.’


  • get (or give someone) ideas

    • informal Become (or make someone) ambitious, bigheaded, or tempted to do something against someone else's will, especially make a sexual advance.

      ‘Mac began to get ideas about turning pro’
      • ‘On second thoughts, let's not give Gordon ideas.’
      • ‘I read that to Archer, along with the part about you not sharing for fear of giving him ideas.’
      • ‘‘Hey now, don't start giving her ideas,’ Matt said.’
      • ‘I don't want to give them ideas, but I'm looking forward to the derby.’
      • ‘In fact, this line of argument should stop here, in case it gives them ideas.’
      • ‘Media violence just adds to the problem and gives them ideas about how to express their anger.’
      • ‘It was a wedding hot spot: what if a fortnight around nauseating newlyweds gave her ideas?’
      • ‘I do not appreciate the rest of you saying I do either, probably giving her ideas.’
      • ‘‘Don't go giving her ideas,’ he warned in a whisper.’
      • ‘According to Silberstein, there are even those who worry that his recent success as an artist will give him ideas, as though he were the Phantom of the Opera, and had suddenly decided to climb onstage and sing Tosca at the Met.’
  • have (got) no idea

    • informal Not know at all.

      ‘she had no idea where she was going’
      • ‘All this time, Marlow was becoming fascinated with the idea of Kurtz - having no idea what to expect, he still felt a certain loyalty to the man.’
      • ‘In addition to having no idea what it's like to live without health coverage, I guess these folks haven't heard of public health either.’
      • ‘I went into the conference having no idea what the response would be; this was, after all, the only conference I had ever been to where there was a prayer to open the banquet.’
      • ‘I LOVE having no idea what time it is, all the livelong day.’
      • ‘Where that idea came from she had no idea but then, she always was a bit of a dreamer.’
      • ‘Wanting to impress someone, but having no idea who my boss is, I headed to Ted Turner's office, who may or may not own my company.’
      • ‘The way the story is told by people who analyse Westminster for us, a landslide victory was in fact a cunning ruse culminating in millions of people all turning up at polling stations on the same day, and having no idea why they were there.’
      • ‘But there we were - passionate, engaged, and having a great time with the journey, having no idea what the destination looks like.’
      • ‘Perhaps one of the most notable changes was this, my foray into the blogosphere, something I began in the belief that I likely wouldn't continue for long and having no idea of the friends I would make all over the world.’
      • ‘I can certainly remember having no idea what we were preparing for.’
      have no idea, not have any idea, be ignorant, not have an inkling
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  • not someone's idea of

    • informal Not what someone regards as.

      ‘it's not my idea of a happy ending’
      • ‘If death-defying driving is not your idea of entertainment, why not walk along the country lanes and see how many discarded bottles of Buckfast, vodka, whisky, and gin you can count in the hedgerows.’
      • ‘Maybe I'm not your idea of what a Republican should be, but then again, you're not my idea of what a decent human being should be.’
      • ‘I am also sure than reading grammatically repulsive and humour challenged paragraphs are not your idea of weekend fun.’
      • ‘If it's not your idea of right, then you should be ashamed of your party.’
      • ‘That is not my idea of what constitutes an affordable afternoon.’
      • ‘Wearing fur in the tropics is not Giroux 's idea of comfort.’
      • ‘But watching a TV commercial on the big screen for a lot of people is not their idea of going to the movies.’
      • ‘Or if horticulture is not your idea of a day out you can still access refreshments without paying an entrance fee.’
      • ‘I am sure you are absolutely right about that, but your technique for cross-examining witnesses in the family court is not my idea of how it should be done.’
      • ‘This is not my idea of balance, and certainly not my idea of equity.’
  • put ideas into someone's head

    • Suggest ambitions or thoughts that a person would not otherwise have had.

      • ‘This morning, I read several more chapters of Black Fiddle which put ideas into my head.’
      • ‘Books about outlaws were blamed because they put ideas into his head about an exciting life of crime.’
      • ‘This would happen if God were actively putting ideas into my head that, prima facie and in all cases, seemed to have some other source.’
      • ‘You shouldn't say such things to the children, putting ideas into their head!’
  • that's an idea

    • informal That suggestion or proposal is worth considering.

      • ‘Hey, that's an idea - an extension that strips all the images from Xeni's posts.’
      • ‘The insight that you could design small, medium, and large cups so that they all use the same size lid - that's an idea.’
      • ‘Hmm… well that's an idea.’
      • ‘‘Hmm. that's an idea, Veltira,’ Bayoline said.’
      • ‘His eyes light up at the prospect. ‘Well now, that's an idea!’’
      • ‘‘Now that's an idea,’ Jesse nodded eagerly, ‘an obstacle course, maybe?’’
      • ‘Now that's an idea - I'll email NASA straight away!’
      • ‘Hey, that's an idea; I could ask Kemaya if Cleopatra could have a book of animal tongues!’
      • ‘Some of these are a little disturbing: the chicken and the egg in trademark - now that's an idea!’
  • that's the idea

    • informal Used to confirm to someone that they have understood something or they are doing something correctly.

      ‘“A sort of bodyguard?” “That's the idea.”’
      • ‘Well, that's the idea, but so far it hasn't worked out that way for The Donnas.’
      • ‘Yep, that's the idea, he is searching for the myth that guides his life.’
      • ‘You'll try something, he'll say, ‘Yes, that's the idea, but maybe I want your arms to go up.’’
  • the very idea!

    • informal An exclamation of disapproval or disagreement.

      • ‘She was subtly moving the debate on, from jokey repartee (the very idea!) to smiling yet intransigent persistence.’
      • ‘The very idea! What an outrage!’


Late Middle English (in idea (sense 3)): via Latin from Greek idea ‘form, pattern’, from the base of idein ‘to see’.