The word “idea” traces its origins back to the ancient Greek word “idein,” meaning “to see” or “to perceive.”


1. Ancient Greek

  • Word: idein
  • Meaning: To see, to perceive

2. Greek Philosophy (c. 5th to 4th century BCE)

  • Concept: Idea
  • Meaning: A mental image, concept, or notion perceived by the mind
  • Derived from: Ancient Greek “idein”

3. Latin (c. 1st century BCE)

  • Word: idea
  • Meaning: Idea, notion, concept
  • Adopted from: Greek philosophy

4. Middle English (c. 12th to 15th century CE)

  • Term: idea
  • Meaning:
  • A mental conception or image.
  • An abstract concept or notion.
  • Derived from: Latin idea

5. Modern English (from 15th century CE to present)

  • Term: Idea
  • Meaning:
  • A thought or conception formed by mental activity.
  • A concept, belief, or principle.
  • A plan or intention.


The word “idea” has its roots in the ancient Greek word “idein,” meaning “to see” or “to perceive.” Over time, it evolved through Greek philosophy into Latin and eventually Middle English, retaining its fundamental meaning of a mental conception or image, an abstract concept or notion, and a thought or plan formed by mental activity.