Meaning of “imagine” in the English Dictionary

british dictionary

"imagine" in British English

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imagineverb [ T ]

uk /ɪˈmædʒ.ɪn/ us /ɪˈmædʒ.ɪn/

B1 to form or have a mental picture or idea of something:

Imagine Robert Redford when he was young - that's what John looks like.
[ + (that) ] Imagine (that) you're eating ice cream - try to feel how cold it is.
[ + question word ] Can you imagine how it feels to be blind?
[ + -ing verb ] She imagined herself sitting in her favourite chair back home.
They hadn't imagined (= expected) (that) it would be so difficult.
I can't imagine (= I really don't know) what he wants from us.

B2 to believe that something is probably true:

[ + (that) ] I imagine (that) he's under a lot of pressure at the moment.
I don't imagine (that) they have much money.
"Will they change it?" "I imagine so."

B1 to think that something exists or is true, although in fact it is not real or true:

"Did you hear a noise?" "No, you're imagining things/No, you must have imagined it."
I've never heard her criticize you - I think you imagine it.

used to express shock or surprise, often at someone else's behaviour:

She got married at 16! Imagine that!
[ + -ing verb ] Imagine spending all that money on a coat!
you can't imagine

used to emphasize a statement:

You can't imagine what a mess the house was in after the party.

More examples

  • Spending Christmas with him and his brother - I can't imagine anything worse!
  • Try to imagine what life must have been like for Neolithic man 10 000 years ago.
  • "Did you hear a noise?" "No, you're imagining things."
  • You can't imagine what it would be like to have your child die - it's quite unthinkable.
  • He has the most awful taste so you can probably imagine what his house looks like.

(Definition of “imagine” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"imagine" in American English

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imagineverb [ T ]

us /ɪˈmædʒ·ən/

to form or have a mental picture or idea of something or someone:

Imagine Tom as a child – that’s what John looks like.
[ + that clause ] I imagine (= expect) (that) they charge extra for dessert.

If you imagine something that is not real or true, you think that it exists, has happened, or is true:

"Did you hear a noise?" "No, you’re imagining things."

(Definition of “imagine” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)