Idea vs ideal

Idea and ideal are two words that are close in spelling and pronunciation and may be considered confusables. Confusables is a catch-all term for words that are often confused in usage. Two words or more than two words may be confused because they are similar in spelling, similar in pronunciation, or similar in meaning. These commonly confused words may be pronounced the same way or pronounced differently or may be spelled the same way or spelled differently, or may have different meanings or have almost different meanings; they may be homophones, homonyms, heteronyms, words that have a similar spelling, or words that have a similar meaning. Confusables often confound native speakers of English, and they may be difficult for ESL students and those learning English to understand. Confusables are misspelled, misused words and may be nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, or any other part of speech. Spelling rules in English are not dependable; there are many exceptions. Often, the best procedure for learning commonly misused words and commonly confused words in English is to make word lists of English words for the learner to study. A spell checker will rarely find this type of mistake in English vocabulary, so do not rely on spell check but instead, learn to spell and learn the definitions of words. Even a participant in a spelling bee like the National Spelling Bee will ask for an example of a confusable in a sentence, so that she understands which word she is to spell by using context clues. Confusables are often used in wordplay like puns. We will examine the different meanings of the confusables idea and ideal, the word origins of the terms, and some examples of their English usage in sentences.

An idea is a thought, concept, or suggestion; an idea is something that one may possibly do or something that may possibly be true. An idea is a mental notion or hypothesis or a belief. The word idea is derived from the Greek word, idea, which means the form or nature of a thing. The plural form is ideas.

An ideal is something that is the most perfect example of something or the best standard against which all other things must be measured. Often, the ideal of something is unobtainable or very, very rarely obtainable. Ideal is used as a noun and an adjective. The plural form is ideals; the comparative and superlative forms are more ideal and most ideal, respectively. The word ideal is derived from the Latin word, idealis, which means a thought that only exists as an idea or an archetype.


Even godless pessimist Schopenhauer invoked the Judeo-Christian idea of a sabbath day of rest in his excoriating account of how humans are tormented and degraded by the eternal labour of desiring stuff. (Guardian)

Conservatives in America have, in recent months, used the idea of freedom to argue against wearing masks, oppose vaccine mandates, and justify storming the Capitol. (Atlantic)

Romelu Lukaku’s Chelsea frustrations suggest he had already found his ideal club (Mirror)

It is ideal for those who love to cook as well as people that want the convenience of an oven that will make meal preparation easy. (Broadway World)

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