idea (n.)

late 14c., "archetype, concept of a thing in the mind of God," from Latin idea "Platonic idea, archetype," a word in philosophy, the word (Cicero writes it in Greek) and the idea taken from Greek idea "form; the look of a thing; a kind, sort, nature; mode, fashion," in logic, "a class, kind, sort, species," from idein "to see," from PIE *wid-es-ya-, suffixed form of root *weid- "to see."

In Platonic philosophy, "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" [Century Dictionary].

Meaning "mental image or picture" is from 1610s (the Greek word for it was ennoia, originally "act of thinking"), as is the sense "concept of something to be done; concept of what ought to be, differing from what is observed." Sense of "result of thinking" first recorded 1640s.

Idée fixe (1836) is from French, literally "fixed idea." Through Latin the word passed into Dutch, German, Danish as idee, which also is found in English dialects. The philosophical sense has been somewhat further elaborated since 17c. by Descartes, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, Kant. Colloquial big idea (as in what's the ...) is from 1908.

updated on October 26, 2020

Definitions of idea from WordNet

idea (n.)
the content of cognition; the main thing you are thinking about;
it was not a good idea
Synonyms: thought
idea (n.)
your intention; what you intend to do;
the idea of the game is to capture all the pieces
Synonyms: mind
idea (n.)
a personal view;
he has an idea that we don't like him
idea (n.)
an approximate calculation of quantity or degree or worth;
a rough idea how long it would take
idea (n.)
(music) melodic subject of a musical composition;
the accompanist picked up the idea and elaborated it
Synonyms: theme / melodic theme / musical theme
Etymologies are not definitions. From, not affiliated with etymonline.