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[ahy-dee-uh l, ahy-deel] /aɪˈdi əl, aɪˈdil/
a conception of something in its perfection.
a standard of perfection or excellence.
a person or thing conceived as embodying such a conception or conforming to such a standard, and taken as a model for imitation:
Thomas Jefferson was his ideal.
an ultimate object or aim of endeavor, especially one of high or noble character:
He refuses to compromise any of his ideals.
something that exists only in the imagination:
To achieve the ideal is almost hopeless.
Mathematics. a subring of a ring, any element of which when multiplied by any element of the ring results in an element of the subring.
conceived as constituting a standard of perfection or excellence:
ideal beauty.
regarded as perfect of its kind:
an ideal spot for a home.
existing only in the imagination; not real or actual:
Nature is real; beauty is ideal.
advantageous; excellent; best:
It would be ideal if she could accompany us as she knows the way.
based upon an ideal or ideals:
the ideal theory of numbers.
  1. pertaining to a possible state of affairs considered as highly desirable.
  2. pertaining to or of the nature of idealism.
Origin of ideal
From the Late Latin word ideālis, dating back to 1605-15. See idea, -al1
Related forms
idealness, noun
quasi-ideal, adjective
quasi-ideally, adverb
subideal, adjective, noun
superideal, adjective, noun
superideally, adverb
unideal, adjective
1, 2. epitome. 4. intention, objective. 7. perfect, consummate, complete. 9. illusory, imaginary, fanciful, fantastic.
Synonym Study
1, 2.Ideal, example, model refer to something considered as a standard to strive toward or something considered worthy of imitation. An ideal is a concept or standard of perfection, existing merely as an image in the mind, or based upon a person or upon conduct: We admire the high ideals of a religious person. Sir Philip Sidney was considered the ideal in gentlemanly conduct. An example is a person or the conduct or achievements of a person regarded as worthy of being followed or imitated in a general way; or sometimes, as properly to be avoided: an example of courage; a bad example to one's children. A model is primarily a physical shape to be closely copied, but is also a pattern for exact imitation in conduct or character: They took their leader as a model. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for ideal
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The litterateur in Wagners estimation had no fixed purpose, no ideal.

    Wagner as I Knew Him Ferdinand Christian Wilhelm Praeger
  • Bruce was twenty-seven, and his mother was still his ideal of womanhood.

    The Man from the Bitter Roots Caroline Lockhart
  • Even where we fall feebly short of the ideal, we have no question what the ideal is.

    The Meaning of Faith Harry Emerson Fosdick
  • An ideal also differs from a standard, for a standard must be real.

    Folkways William Graham Sumner
  • These ideal conditions are, however, far from being realized.

    The Evolution of Culture Augustus Henry Lane-Fox Pitt-Rivers
British Dictionary definitions for ideal


a conception of something that is perfect, esp that which one seeks to attain
a person or thing considered to represent perfection: he's her ideal
something existing only as an idea
a pattern or model, esp of ethical behaviour
conforming to an ideal
of, involving, or existing in the form of an idea
  1. of or relating to a highly desirable and possible state of affairs
  2. of or relating to idealism
Derived Forms
ideality (ˌaɪdɪˈælɪtɪ) noun
ideally, adverb
idealness, noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for ideal

early 15c., "pertaining to an archetype or model," from Late Latin idealis "existing in idea," from Latin idea in the Platonic sense (see idea). Sense of "perfect" first recorded 1610s.


"perfect person or thing," 1796, in a translation of Kant, from ideal (adj.).


"perfect person or thing," 1796, in a translation of Kant, from ideal (adj.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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ideal in Medicine

ideal i·de·al (ī-dē'əl, ī-dēl')

  1. A conception of something in its absolute perfection.

  2. One that is regarded as a standard or model of perfection or excellence.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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