[ ahy-dee-uh, ahy-deeuh ]
/ aɪˈdi ə, aɪˈdiə /
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See synonyms for: idea / ideas on Thesaurus.com

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Origin of idea

First recorded in 1400–50; from Late Latin from Greek idéā “form, pattern,” equivalent to ide- (stem of ideîn “to see”) + feminine noun ending; replacing late Middle English idee from Middle French from Late Latin, as above; akin to wit1

historical usage of idea

English idea comes from one of Seneca’s Epistles (58), written about a.d. 64 during his retirement from Emperor Nero’s court, in which the Roman philosopher uses idea in the sense of “Platonic idea, eternal archetype.” Seneca wrote idea in Latin letters; the Roman orator Cicero, about a hundred years earlier, wrote the same word, with the same meaning, but in Greek letters. Plato used the perfectly ordinary Greek noun idéa “form, shape” as a term in logic meaning “classification, principle of classification,” and in his own metaphysics to mean “ideal form, prototype.” In fact, the earliest uses of idea in English show semantic overlap with ideal. The familiar and current meanings having to do with a mental conception, notion, or image first appeared in the late 16th century.
The Greek noun idéa comes from the very common, very complicated Proto-Indo-European root weid-, woid-, wid- “to see.” In Greek the variant woid- forms the verb oîda ( woîda in some dialects), meaning “I know.” (In form, oîda is a perfect tense used to show a present state: “I have seen, I know.”)
Woidos, a noun derived from woid-, becomes veda- “knowledge” in Sanskrit ( Rig-Veda means “knowledge of the hymns, sacred stanzas”). The variant wid- forms the Greek noun idéa, and the infinitive ideîn (also wideîn ), the Latin infinitive vidēre, and the Slavic (Czech) vidět, all meaning “to see.”
Weid-, woid-, wid- become wīt-, wait-, wit- in Germanic. The suffixed form wīt-to- forms the adjective wīsaz, Old English wīs (English wise ), and Old English wīsdōm “learning” (English wisdom ).


i·de·a·less, adjectivepre·i·de·a, nounsub·i·de·a, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What are other ways to say idea?

An idea is any conception existing in the mind as a result of mental understanding, awareness, or activity. How is idea different from thought, conception, and notion? Learn more on Thesaurus.com

How to use idea in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for idea (1 of 2)

/ (aɪˈdɪə) /


Derived forms of idea

idealess, adjective

Word Origin for idea

C16: via Late Latin from Greek: model, pattern, notion, from idein to see

usage for idea

It is usually considered correct to say that someone has the idea of doing something, rather than the idea to do it: he had the idea of taking (not the idea to take) a short holiday

British Dictionary definitions for idea (2 of 2)

/ (aɪˈdɪə) /

another name for Form
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

Other Idioms and Phrases with idea


see bright idea; put ideas in someone's head; what's the idea.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.