Definitions

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

  • n. Something, such as a thought or conception, that potentially or actually exists in the mind as a product of mental activity.
  • n. An opinion, conviction, or principle: has some strange political ideas.
  • n. A plan, scheme, or method.
  • n. The gist of a specific situation; significance: The idea is to finish the project under budget.
  • n. A notion; a fancy.
  • n. Music A theme or motif.
  • n. Philosophy In the philosophy of Plato, an archetype of which a corresponding being in phenomenal reality is an imperfect replica.
  • n. Philosophy In the philosophy of Kant, a concept of reason that is transcendent but nonempirical.
  • n. Philosophy In the philosophy of Hegel, absolute truth; the complete and ultimate product of reason.
  • n. Obsolete A mental image of something remembered.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. 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.
  • n. A general notion, or a conception formed by generalization.
  • n. 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.
  • n. A belief, option, or doctrine; a characteristic or controlling principle
  • n. A plan or purpose of action; intention; design.
  • n. 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.
  • n. 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.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. 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.
  • n. 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?
  • n. I think that there are such abstract ideas, said Socrates.
  • n. 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?
  • n. Yes, he said, I should.
  • n. And would you make an abstract idea of man distinct from us and from all other human creatures, or of fire and water?
  • n. A mental image or picture.
  • n. 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.
  • n. A conception of what is desirable or ought to be, different from what has been observed; a governing conception or principle; a teleological conception.
  • n. 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.
  • n. An opinion; a thought, especially one not well established by evidence.
  • n. An abstract principle, of not much immediate practical consequence in existing circumstances.
  • n. [capitalized] In entomology, a genus of nymphalid butterflies, based on the Indian Nymphalis idea: now called Hestia.
  • n. In music, a theme or subject; a phrase; sometimes, a figure. Often called a musical idea.
  • n. Same as imperative idea .
  • n. . Same as fixed idea .

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

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

Etymologies

Middle English, from Latin, from Greek.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Latin idea ("a (Platonic) idea; archetype"), from Ancient Greek ἰδέα (idea, "notion, pattern"), from εἴδω (eidō, "I see"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

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

    Visible Body - Visibly Stupid

  • 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

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

    Violin Mastery Talks with Master Violinists and Teachers

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

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

    Gypsy's Cousin Joy

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

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

  • 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

  • Her main idea is to reinforce tax cuts for Coporations and cut spending/services for the middle class while implementing decreasing revenues as their incomes continue to dwindle.

    Poizner attacks Whitman in new TV ad

Comments

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

    June 10, 2010

  • 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

  • "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