Ask Difference

Idea vs. Ideal — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Updated on October 19, 2023
An "Idea" is a thought or suggestion about a possible course of action, while an "Ideal" represents a standard of perfection or excellence.
Idea vs. Ideal — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Idea and Ideal

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Key Differences

An Idea is a concept, thought, or mental impression that occurs as a result of contemplating or pondering. On the other hand, an Ideal denotes a perfect standard or an example of perfection, often used as a benchmark to strive towards.
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Oct 19, 2023
Everyone possesses Ideas, which can emerge spontaneously or from deliberate thinking. However, an Ideal is a more universal standard, a representation of something in its best form, embodying excellence.
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Oct 19, 2023
Ideas can be diverse, ranging from innovative solutions to everyday challenges to creative visions in arts. Conversely, an Ideal frequently pertains to moral, ethical, or aspirational standards which individuals or societies uphold as exemplary.
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Inventions often originate from an Idea - a spark or a vision that a person wishes to bring to life. In contrast, the Ideal scenario or outcome is what individuals or groups might aim for, a pinnacle of what could be achieved.
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Oct 19, 2023
The beauty of Ideas is that they can evolve, change, or be adapted based on new insights or circumstances. An Ideal, while it can shift over time, often remains as a steadfast beacon, guiding behavior, aspirations, or goals.
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Comparison Chart

Primary Meaning

A concept or mental impression.
A standard of perfection or excellence.
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Associated With

Thoughts, creativity, solutions.
Standards, aspirations, excellence.
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Usage

Can be subjective and diverse.
Often universal or widely accepted.
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Grammatical Role

Noun.
Noun; can be an adjective (e.g., ideal scenario).
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Derived From

Thinking, pondering.
Notions of perfection or excellence.
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Compare with Definitions

Idea

A mental impression or concept.
The idea of space travel fascinates many.
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Ideal

A perfect standard or example.
She is the ideal candidate for the job.
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Idea

The result of creative thinking.
His latest novel was born from a unique idea.
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Ideal

Representing an optimal or perfect scenario.
The weather today is ideal for a picnic.
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Idea

An intention or plan.
The idea behind the project was to help the community.
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Ideal

Of the highest standard.
The product meets the ideal requirements of the customers.
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Idea

In common usage and in philosophy, ideas are abstract concepts. Also in philosophy, ideas can also be mental representational images of some object.
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Ideal

Satisfying one's conception of what is perfect; most suitable
This is an ideal opportunity to save money
The swimming pool is ideal for a quick dip
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Idea

A thought or suggestion as to a possible course of action
Recently, the idea of linking pay to performance has caught on
It's a good idea to do some research before you go
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Ideal

Existing only in the imagination; desirable or perfect but not likely to become a reality
In an ideal world, we might have made a different decision
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Idea

The aim or purpose
I took a job with the idea of getting some money together
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Ideal

A person or thing regarded as perfect
You're my ideal of how a man should be
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Idea

(in Platonic thought) an eternally existing pattern of which individual things in any class are imperfect copies.
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Ideal

A conception of something in its absolute perfection
The ideal of national unity.
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Idea

Something, such as a thought or conception, that is the product of mental activity.
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Ideal

One that is regarded as a standard or model of perfection or excellence
The restaurant is considered the ideal in fine dining.
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Idea

An opinion, conviction, or principle
Has some strange political ideas.
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Ideal

An ultimate or worthy object of endeavor; a goal
"those who regarded even a rhetorical commitment to the ideal of disarmament as irresponsibly utopian" (James Carroll).
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Idea

A plan, purpose, or goal
She started school with the idea of becoming a doctor.
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Ideal

Conforming to a standard of perfection or excellence; perfect or highly satisfactory
An ideal work environment.
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Idea

The gist or significance
The idea of the article is that investing in green technology can save you money in the long run.
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Ideal

Existing only in the mind; imaginary
An ideal world where everything works out fine.
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Idea

A sense that something can happen; a notion or expectation
They have this idea that we can just drop what we're doing and go to the park.
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Ideal

Lacking practicality or the possibility of realization
An ideal notion of how businesses are run.
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Idea

(Music) A theme or motif.
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Ideal

Existing as an archetype or pattern, especially as a Platonic idea or perception
The ideal forms.
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Idea

In the philosophy of Plato, a non-physical form or archetype to which beings in phenomenal reality correspond only as imperfect replicas.
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Ideal

Of or relating to idealism.
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Idea

In the philosophy of Kant, a concept of reason that is transcendent but nonempirical.
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Ideal

Optimal; being the best possibility.
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Idea

In the philosophy of Hegel, absolute truth; the complete and ultimate product of reason.
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Ideal

Perfect, flawless, having no defects.
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Idea

(Obsolete) A mental image of something remembered.
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Ideal

Pertaining to ideas, or to a given idea.
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Idea

(philosophy) An abstract archetype of a given thing, compared to which real-life examples are seen as imperfect approximations; pure essence, as opposed to actual examples.
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Ideal

Existing only in the mind; conceptual, imaginary.
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Idea

(obsolete) The conception of someone or something as representing a perfect example; an ideal.
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Ideal

Teaching or relating to the doctrine of idealism.
The ideal theory or philosophy
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Idea

(obsolete) The form or shape of something; a quintessential aspect or characteristic.
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Ideal

(mathematics) Not actually present, but considered as present when limits at infinity are included.
Ideal point
An ideal triangle in the hyperbolic disk is one bounded by three geodesics that meet precisely on the circle.
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Jun 02, 2018

Idea

An image of an object that is formed in the mind or recalled by the memory.
The mere idea of you is enough to excite me.
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Ideal

A perfect standard of beauty, intellect etc., or a standard of excellence to aim at.
Ideals are like stars; you will not succeed in touching them with your hands. But like the seafaring man on the desert of waters, you choose them as your guides, and following them you will reach your destiny - Carl Schurz
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Idea

More generally, any result of mental activity; a thought, a notion; a way of thinking.
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Ideal

A subring closed under multiplication by its containing ring.
Let \mathbb{Z} be the ring of integers and let 2\mathbb{Z} be its ideal of even integers. Then the quotient ring \mathbb{Z} / 2\mathbb{Z} is a Boolean ring.
The product of two ideals \mathfrak{a} and \mathfrak{b} is an ideal \mathfrak{a b} which is a subset of the intersection of \mathfrak{a} and \mathfrak{b}. This should help to understand why maximal ideals are prime ideals. Likewise, the union of \mathfrak{a} and \mathfrak{b} is a subset of \mathfrak{a + b}.
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Idea

A conception in the mind of something to be done; a plan for doing something, an intention.
I have an idea of how we might escape.
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Ideal

A non-empty lower set (of a partially ordered set) which is closed under binary suprema (a.k.a. joins).
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Idea

A purposeful aim or goal; intent
Yeah, that's the idea.
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Ideal

(set theory) A collection of sets, considered small or negligible, such that every subset of each member and the union of any two members are also members of the collection.
Formally, an ideal I of a given set X is a nonempty subset of the powerset \mathcal{P}(X) such that: (1)\ \emptyset \in I, (2)\ A \in I \and B \subseteq A\implies B\in I and (3)\ A,B \in I\implies A\cup B \in I.
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Idea

A vague or fanciful notion; a feeling or hunch; an impression.
He had the wild idea that if he leant forward a little, he might be able to touch the mountain-top.
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Ideal

A Lie subalgebra (subspace that is closed under the Lie bracket) 𝖍 of a given Lie algebra 𝖌 such that the Lie bracket [𝖌,𝖍] is a subset of 𝖍.
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Idea

(music) A musical theme or melodic subject.
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Ideal

(algebra) A subsemigroup with the property that if any semigroup element outside of it is added to any one of its members, the result must lie outside of it.
The set of natural numbers with multiplication as the monoid operation (instead of addition) has multiplicative ideals, such as, for example, the set {1, 3, 9, 27, 81, ...}. If any member of it is multiplied by a number which is not a power of 3 then the result will not be a power of three.
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Idea

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.
Her sweet idea wandered through his thoughts.
Being the right idea of your fatherBoth in your form and nobleness of mind.
This representation or likeness of the object being transmitted from thence [the senses] to the imagination, and lodged there for the view and observation of the pure intellect, is aptly and properly called its idea.
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Ideal

Existing in idea or thought; conceptional; intellectual; mental; as, ideal knowledge.
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Idea

A general notion, or a conception formed by generalization.
Alice had not the slightest idea what latitude was.
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Ideal

Reaching an imaginary standard of excellence; fit for a model; faultless; as, ideal beauty.
There will always be a wide interval between practical and ideal excellence.
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Idea

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.
Whatsoever the mind perceives in itself, or as the immediate object of perception, thought, or undersanding, that I call idea.
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Ideal

Existing in fancy or imagination only; visionary; unreal.
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Idea

A belief, option, or doctrine; a characteristic or controlling principle; as, an essential idea; the idea of development.
That fellow seems to me to possess but one idea, and that is a wrong one.
What is now "idea" for us? How infinite the fall of this word, since the time where Milton sang of the Creator contemplating his newly-created world, -"how it showed . . . Answering his great idea," -to its present use, when this person "has an idea that the train has started," and the other "had no idea that the dinner would be so bad!"
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Ideal

Teaching the doctrine of idealism; as, the ideal theory or philosophy.
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Idea

A plan or purpose of action; intention; design.
I shortly afterwards set off for that capital, with an idea of undertaking while there the translation of the work.
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Ideal

Imaginary.
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Idea

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.
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Ideal

A mental conception regarded as a standard of perfection; a model of excellence, beauty, etc.
The ideal is to be attained by selecting and assembling in one whole the beauties and perfections which are usually seen in different individuals, excluding everything defective or unseemly, so as to form a type or model of the species. Thus, the Apollo Belvedere is the ideal of the beauty and proportion of the human frame.
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Jun 02, 2018

Idea

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.
Thence to behold this new-created world,The addition of his empire, how it showedIn prospect from his throne, how good, how fair,Answering his great idea.
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Ideal

The idea of something that is perfect; something that one hopes to attain
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Idea

The content of cognition; the main thing you are thinking about;
It was not a good idea
The thought never entered my mind
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Ideal

Model of excellence or perfection of a kind; one having no equal
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Idea

A personal view;
He has an idea that we don't like him
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Ideal

Conforming to an ultimate standard of perfection or excellence; embodying an ideal
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Idea

An approximate calculation of quantity or degree or worth;
An estimate of what it would cost
A rough idea how long it would take
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Ideal

Constituting or existing only in the form of an idea or mental image or conception;
A poem or essay may be typical of its period in idea or ideal content
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Idea

Your intention; what you intend to do;
He had in mind to see his old teacher
The idea of the game is to capture all the pieces
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Ideal

Of or relating to the philosophical doctrine of the reality of ideas
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Idea

(music) melodic subject of a musical composition;
The theme is announced in the first measures
The accompanist picked up the idea and elaborated it
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Ideal

A person or thing regarded as perfect.
He's always seen his grandmother as the ideal role model.
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Idea

A thought or suggestion about a possible action.
I have an idea for a new mobile application.
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Ideal

A principle or value that one actively pursues.
Justice and equality are his life's ideals.
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Idea

A belief or opinion.
The idea of freedom is vital to democracy.
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Common Curiosities

Can an idea be ideal?

Yes, an idea can be considered perfect or optimal, making it ideal.
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Are ideas always original?

No, ideas can be influenced, adapted, or borrowed from other sources.
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Can ideas be tangible?

Ideas are intangible by nature, but their execution can result in tangible outcomes.
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How are ideas generally formed?

Through thinking, experiences, influences, or a combination of factors.
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Can an idea be unpopular yet valid?

Yes, validity and popularity of an idea are not always correlated.
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How can one move closer to their ideals?

Through consistent effort, learning, and aligning actions with those ideals.
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Are all ideas worth pursuing?

Not necessarily. Some ideas may not be feasible or beneficial.
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Is every ideal universally accepted?

No, what's ideal for one person or culture might differ for another.
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Are ideals always lofty and hard to attain?

Often, but not always. Ideals are standards of perfection, but they can vary in scope.
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Do ideals change over time?

Yes, societal norms and personal beliefs can evolve, changing what is considered ideal.
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Can an ideal be detrimental?

Yes, if it's unrealistic or causes harm in the pursuit of it.
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How can one evaluate the merit of an idea?

By considering its feasibility, impact, relevance, and potential outcomes.
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Is it possible to have multiple ideals?

Yes, one can have ideals in various aspects of life.
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Can ideas and ideals coexist in a single concept?

Yes, for instance, an idea to achieve a particular ideal can be intertwined.
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How do ideals influence behavior?

Ideals act as benchmarks, guiding individuals towards desired behavior or goals.
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Oct 19, 2023

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to askdifference.com. As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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