American English

Definition of idea noun from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary



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  1. 1[countable] a plan, thought, or suggestion, especially about what to do in a particular situation It would be a good idea to call before we leave. idea (of something/of doing something) I like the idea of living on a boat. idea (for something) He already had an idea for his next novel. Her family expected her to go to college, but she had other ideas. The surprise party was Jane's idea. I have a brilliant idea! It might be an idea (= it would be sensible) to try again later. We've been toying with the idea of (= thinking about) getting a dog. It seemed like a good idea at the time, and then it all went horribly wrong. We're having a meeting to try to come up with ideas for fund-raising. The latest big idea is to make women more interested in sports.
  2. impression
  3. 2[uncountable, singular] idea (of something) a picture or an impression in your mind of what someone or something is like The brochure should give you a good idea of the hotel. I had some idea of what the job would be like. She doesn't seem to have any idea of what I'm talking about. I don't want anyone getting the wrong idea (= getting the wrong impression about something). A night at home watching TV is not my idea of a good time. If this is your idea of a joke, then I don't find it very funny.
  4. opinion
  5. 3[countable] idea (about something) an opinion or a belief about something He has some very strange ideas about education.
  6. feeling
  7. 4[singular] idea (that…) a feeling that something is possible What gave you the idea that he'd be here? I have a pretty good idea where I left it—I hope I'm right.
  8. aim
  9. 5the idea [singular] idea of something/of doing something the aim or purpose of something You'll soon get the idea (= understand). What's the idea of the game? The whole idea of going was so that we could meet her new boyfriend. Thesauruspurposeaim intention plan point ideaThese are all words for talking about what someone intends to do or achieve.purpose what something is supposed to achieve; what someone is trying to achieve:The purpose of the visit was to see the campus in person.aim what someone is trying to achieve; what something is supposed to achieve:Our main aim is to increase sales in the Northwest.purpose or aim?Your purpose for doing something is your reason for doing it; your aim is what you want to achieve. Aim can suggest that you are only trying to achieve something;purpose gives a stronger sense of achievement being certain. Aim can be someone's aim or the aim of something. Purpose is more usually the purpose of something; you can talk about someone's purpose but that is more formal.intention what you intend to do:I have no intention of going to the wedding. She's full of good intentions but things rarely work out for her.plan what you intend to do or achieve:There are no plans to build new offices.intention or plan?Your intentions are what you want to do, especially in the near future; your plans are what you have decided or arranged to do, often, but not always, in the longer term.point (somewhat informal) the purpose or aim of something:What's the point of all this violence? The point of the lesson is to compare the two countries.idea (somewhat informal) the purpose of something; someone's aim:The whole idea of going was so that we could meet her new boyfriend. What's the idea behind this assignment?point or idea?Point is a more negative word than idea. If you say What's the point…? you are suggesting that there is no point; if you say What's the idea…? you are genuinely asking a question. Point, but not idea, is used to talk about things you feel annoyed or unhappy about:There's no idea in… I don't see the idea of….Patterns with the aim/intention/idea >of>doing something somebody's intention/plan to do something to have a(n) purpose/aim/intention/plan/point to achieve a(n) purpose/aim
  10. Idioms
    give somebody ideas, put ideas into somebody's head
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    to give someone hopes about something that may not be possible or likely; to make someone act or think in an unreasonable way Who's been putting ideas into his head?
    have no idea, not have the faintest, first, etc. idea (informal)
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     used to emphasize that you do not know something “What's she talking about?” “I have no idea.” He hasn't the faintest idea how to manage people. I had no idea she'd had such a difficult life. I don't have any idea where he is.
    have the right idea
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    to have found a very good or successful way of living, doing something, etc. He's certainly got the right idea—retiring at 55.
    that's an idea! (informal)
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    used to reply in a positive way to a suggestion that someone has made Hey, that's an idea! And we could get a band, as well.
    that's the idea! (informal)
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    used to encourage people and to tell them that they are doing something right That's the idea! You're doing great.
    you have no idea… (informal)
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    used to show that something is hard for someone else to imagine You have no idea how much traffic there was tonight.
See the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary entry: idea