I wrote

We all could have some .... of a place when we hear about it.

I look for a word which means the image or idea we have about a country that we got from various sources (TV, other people)

For example, we may think Japan is a green place full of cherry blooms with very polite people who usually eat sea foods!...

If I want to translate a Persian phrase I can say:

  • imagination
  • image
  • mental background

Or I myself can make a word like pre image or prior image. However as I checked they aren't valid or idiomatic.

  • Have you tried using a dictionary or thesaurus? Which one? Most online dictionaries provide synonyms or links to synonyms. I have close-voted this question because you should look the word up in a dictionary or thesaurus and then list possible alternatives and what difficulty you had with them, for example, you're not sure they fit the context. Commented Oct 2, 2016 at 14:39
  • @AlanCarmack I wonder what is the usage of "word-request" tag, I explained my request as possible. I really had no idea what the word could be. Otherwise I didn't ask it. I even thought of the word Pre-image which certainly doesn't exist!
    – Ahmad
    Commented Oct 2, 2016 at 14:55
  • Image works. In fact, that is the word I thought of when I read your question title. Possibly it's the best word. I am not sure why you don't like this word. Commented Oct 2, 2016 at 15:13
  • 2
    @Ahmad: You probably want preconception, which more strongly alludes to this being the way you conceptualise something before you have any direct first-hand experience (and thus more strongly implies that what you expect to be the case will in fact turn out to be not accurate when you see the reality). Commented Oct 2, 2016 at 15:18

3 Answers 3


You could use "conception" (perhaps verbally as conceive) or "notion"

Conception means "an idea formed in the mind". A notion suggests the conception is vague or imperfect.

My conception of Japan is of crowded cities filled with office workers.

My notions of Mars are based mostly on movies.

She conceived Mexico to be a hot dry land.

See also this, question about the difference between notion and conception on English Stack Exchange.

We can also talk about the "mental image" that we have about a place.


If you want a phrase or word which describes thoughts before actually encountering or experiencing something

preconceived notions
We all could have preconceived notions of a place when we hear about it.

some ideas
We all could have some ideas of a place when we hear about it.

some thoughts
We all could have some thoughts of a place when we hear about it.

all can imply less than a deep understanding of something.


The idea you're describing is called a

mental image

From http://www.dictionary.com/browse/mental-image:

A mental picture of something not real or present that is produced by the memory or the imagination. Example: "Viggo Mortensen doesn't fit my own mental image of Strider, but soon won me over all the same."

The example sentence shows the pre or prior aspect you are looking for.

Here is this term used in your Japan example:

My mental image of Japan was a green place full of cherry blossoms with very polite people eating fish and seafood. When I spent my sabbatical there last year, I found all that, but much more -- etc.

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