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[ih-maj-uh-ner-ee] /ɪˈmædʒ əˌnɛr i/
existing only in the imagination or fancy; not real; fancied:
an imaginary illness; the imaginary animals in the stories of Dr. Seuss.
noun, plural imaginaries.
Mathematics. imaginary number.
Origin of imaginary
1350-1400; Middle English < Latin imāginārius, equivalent to imāgin-, (stem of imāgō) image + -ārius -ary
Related forms
imaginarily, adverb
imaginariness, noun
nonimaginarily, adverb
nonimaginarilyness, noun
nonimaginariness, noun
nonimaginary, adjective
preimaginary, adjective
unimaginary, adjective
Can be confused
imaginary, imaginative.
1. fanciful, visionary, shadowy, chimerical, baseless, illusory.
1. real. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for imaginary
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • He bathed in this imaginary future as in the waters of omnipotence.

    The Spenders Harry Leon Wilson
  • And she created an imaginary experience for herself almost unknowingly.

    The Dream Emile Zola
  • This is because he is dealing with an imaginary world, not with the world as it is.

  • In politics, an imaginary rat-pit in which the statesman wrestles with his record.

    The Devil's Dictionary Ambrose Bierce
  • Then beat an imaginary child, and said, 'Broom-handles and pokers.'

    Little Dorrit Charles Dickens
British Dictionary definitions for imaginary


/ɪˈmædʒɪnərɪ; -dʒɪnrɪ/
existing in the imagination; unreal; illusory
(maths) involving or containing imaginary numbers. The imaginary part of a complex number, z, is usually written Imz
Derived Forms
imaginarily, adverb
imaginariness, 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 imaginary

"not real," late 14c., ymaginaire, from imagine + -ary; or else from Late Latin imaginarius "seeming, fancied," from imaginari. Imaginary friend (one who does not exist) attested by 1789.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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