Definition of imaginary in US English:

imaginary

adjective

  • 1Existing only in the imagination.

    ‘Chris had imaginary conversations with her’
    • ‘Don't get into obeying imaginary voices in your head or anything daft like that.’
    • ‘How they coped with this transfer of power is a vital part of these imaginary conversations.’
    • ‘These fears are mainly imaginary, and most are born of a highly developed imagination gone astray.’
    • ‘It lies halfway between Orkney and Shetland on an imaginary line dividing the North Sea from the North Atlantic.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘To escape reality, I invented an imaginary world and began writing poetry.’
    • ‘Is an imaginary campaign manager really the worst political decision you've heard lately?’
    • ‘The blood was fake and the flames imaginary, but the task facing the emergency services could have been very real.’
    • ‘While he talks, his feet move constantly - tapping away to an imaginary beat.’
    • ‘I couldn't go into my own imaginary world far away and try to block out all of these problems.’
    • ‘He invented imaginary worlds in which he was the king, and everyone had obey him.’
    • ‘Not only is he a modern star playing a classic star, he's playing him as an imaginary figure.’
    • ‘The mandala represents an imaginary palace that is contemplated during meditation.’
    • ‘There exist countless instances of the type, present and past, real and imaginary, actual and potential.’
    • ‘In the first place, the film depicts some imaginary breed of gracious and principled gangsters.’
    • ‘Fears of vote-tampering and vote suppression are far from exaggerated or imaginary.’
    • ‘I bowed to an imaginary crowd and pretended to thank my parents and all who believed in me.’
    • ‘This image is of an imaginary circle that each person draws around him/herself.’
    • ‘The only saving grace is that most children take it for granted that spirits and the like are imaginary beings.’
    • ‘The view that dreams are merely the imaginary fulfilments of repressed wishes is hopelessly out of date.’
    unreal, non-existent, fictional, fictitious, pretend, make-believe, mythical, mythological, legendary, storybook, fanciful, fantastic
    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.’
    • ‘The idea is based on an ingenious use of the properties of imaginary numbers.’
    • ‘It also only worked, he noted, when certain imaginary parts of two complex numbers cancelled out.’

Usage

Imaginary means ‘product of the imagination, unreal.’ Imaginative means ‘showing imagination, original.’ Science fiction, for example, deals with imaginary people, places, and events; how imaginative it is depends on the writer's ability

Origin

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

Pronunciation

imaginary

/iˈmajəˌnerē//ɪˈmædʒəˌnɛri/