from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun Something, such as a thought or conception, that is the product of mental activity.
  • noun An opinion, conviction, or principle.
  • noun A plan, purpose, or goal.
  • noun The gist or significance.
  • noun A sense that something can happen; a notion or expectation.
  • noun Music A theme or motif.
  • noun In the philosophy of Plato, an archetype of which a corresponding being in phenomenal reality is an imperfect replica.
  • noun In the philosophy of Kant, a concept of reason that is transcendent but nonempirical.
  • noun In the philosophy of Hegel, absolute truth; the complete and ultimate product of reason.
  • noun Obsolete A mental image of something remembered.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun In the Platonic philosophy, and in similar idealistic thought, an archetype, or pure immaterial pattern, of which the individual objects in any one natural class are but the imperfect copies, and by participation in which they have their being: in this sense the word is generally qualified by the adjective Platonic.
  • noun Socrates, he [Parmenides] said, I admire the bent of your mind towards philosophy; tell me, now, was this your own distinction between abstract ideas and the things which partake of them? and do you think that there is an idea of likeness apart from the likeness which we possess, or of the one and many, or of the other notions of which Zeno has been speaking?
  • noun I think that there are such abstract ideas, said Socrates.
  • noun Parmenides proceeded. And would you also make abstract ideas of the just and the beautiful and the good, and of all that class of notions?
  • noun Yes, he said, I should.
  • noun And would you make an abstract idea of man distinct from us and from all other human creatures, or of fire and water?
  • noun A mental image or picture.
  • noun In the language of Descartes and of English philosophers, an immediate object of thought —that is, what one feels when one feels, or fancies when one fancies, or thinks when one thinks, and, in short, whatever is in one's understanding and directly present to cognitive consciousness.
  • noun A conception of what is desirable or ought to be, different from what has been observed; a governing conception or principle; a teleological conception.
  • noun In the Kantian philosophy, a conception of reason the object of which transcends all possible experience, as God, Freedom of the Will, Immortality; in the Hegelian philos., the absolute truth of which everything that exists is the expression —the ideal realized, the essence which includes its own existence: in the latter sense commonly used with the definite article; in other a priori philosophies, an a priori conception of a perfection to be aimed at, not corresponding to anything observed, nor ever fully realized.
  • noun An opinion; a thought, especially one not well established by evidence.
  • noun An abstract principle, of not much immediate practical consequence in existing circumstances.
  • noun [capitalized] In entomology, a genus of nymphalid butterflies, based on the Indian Nymphalis idea: now called Hestia.
  • noun In music, a theme or subject; a phrase; sometimes, a figure. Often called a musical idea.
  • noun Same as imperative idea .
  • noun . Same as fixed idea .

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun The transcript, image, or picture of a visible object, that is formed by the mind; also, a similar image of any object whatever, whether sensible or spiritual.
  • noun A general notion, or a conception formed by generalization.
  • noun Hence: Any object apprehended, conceived, or thought of, by the mind; a notion, conception, or thought; the real object that is conceived or thought of.
  • noun A belief, option, or doctrine; a characteristic or controlling principle
  • noun A plan or purpose of action; intention; design.
  • noun A rational conception; the complete conception of an object when thought of in all its essential elements or constituents; the necessary metaphysical or constituent attributes and relations, when conceived in the abstract.
  • noun A fiction object or picture created by the imagination; the same when proposed as a pattern to be copied, or a standard to be reached; one of the archetypes or patterns of created things, conceived by the Platonists to have excited objectively from eternity in the mind of the Deity.
  • noun etc. See under Abstract, Association, etc.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun an approximate calculation of quantity or degree or worth
  • noun your intention; what you intend to do
  • noun (music) melodic subject of a musical composition
  • noun a personal view
  • noun the content of cognition; the main thing you are thinking about


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English, from Latin, from Greek; see weid- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Latin idea ("a (Platonic) idea; archetype"), from Ancient Greek ἰδέα (idea, "notion, pattern"), from εἴδω (eidō, "I see").


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  • Scratch that "great idea," bit, here's a *stupid idea*: only Internet Explorer....

    Visible Body - Visibly Stupid glyn moody 2008

  • Or rather it might be said that an idea, the _big idea_, danced unceremoniously into his brain, and, beginning to take definite and concrete form, chased a score of other smaller ideas through all the thought-channels of his handsome, boyish, well-rounded head.

    The Brighton Boys in the Radio Service James R. [pseud.] Driscoll

  • The modern idea lays stress first of all on the _idea_ in music.

    Violin Mastery Talks with Master Violinists and Teachers Frederick Herman Martens 1903

  • It can be got only by a constant obtrusion of a mere idea, the _idea of self_, and of such unsatisfactory ideas as one's right, for instance, to exclude others.

    Laurus Nobilis Chapters on Art and Life Vernon Lee 1895

  • We cannot live intellectually and morally in presence of the idea, say, of a jockey of Degas or one of his ballet girls in contemplation of her shoe, as long as we can live æsthetically in the arrangement of lines and masses and dabs of colour and interlacings of light and shade which translate themselves into this _idea_ of jockey or ballet girl; we are therefore bored, ruffled, or, what is worse, we learn to live on insufficient spiritual rations, and grow anæmic.

    Laurus Nobilis Chapters on Art and Life Vernon Lee 1895

  • Whether then the man and beast be in actual labor or not, the dominant idea in the artist’s mind is that they are or have been laboring; that that is what they stand for, _that idea_ to be presented in the strongest possible way.

    Pictorial Composition and the Critical Judgment of Pictures Henry Rankin Poore 1899

  • "I hadn't the least idea it was so wicked — not the least _idea_.

    Gypsy's Cousin Joy Elizabeth Stuart Phelps 1877

  • The main idea is that god is rational and, as such, good.

    The Volokh Conspiracy » Birth Defects as God’s Punishment for Abortion 2010

  • The main idea is to support the way in which scientists search/browse for resources (e.g. published papers on a particular topic), and to allow them to recall their exploration path to remember the context in which they obtained these resources.

    2009 June 8 | Serendipity 2009

  • The main idea is to support the way in which scientists search/browse for resources (e.g. published papers on a particular topic), and to allow them to recall their exploration path to remember the context in which they obtained these resources.

    2009 June | Serendipity 2009


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  • "I often wonder why some people discover that by changing their ideas they can be happy, while other people never discover this and go on an on being miserable."

    - 'Upfront' in GW, Dorothy Rowe, 1 March 2008.

    March 18, 2008

  • Lionel Trilling said, "Whenever we put two emotions into juxtaposition we have what we can properly call an idea"("The Meaning of a Literary Idea" 283).

    June 10, 2010

  • Henri Poincare said, "Ideas rose in clouds; I felt them collide until pairs interlocked, so to speak, making a stable combination."

    June 10, 2010