Is word ‘imaginary’ used much in English in specific situations? For example, I run in a circle on the playground, but actually there are no real circles. In this case, is ‘imaginary’ used such as in ‘I run in an imaginary circle on the playground’?

  • It would be hard to give an assessment that broad. I think to get the answer you're looking for it would be better to ask whether "imaginary" is used much in that particular context.
    – Kman3
    Jun 3 at 2:31
  • Some dictionaries give this information. Cambridge dictionary says it is "C1": Something that a proficient English speaker would know.
    – James K
    Jun 3 at 4:31

The word "imaginary" is used all the time in English, depending on context, as Kman commented. In some disciplines of math, for example, the concept of "imaginary numbers" is very important and is very heavily discussed. But in other disciplines the concept does not come up. People talk about having "imaginary friends." Someone describing a radio signal might compare it to an "imaginary line" coming off the antenna.

In your context, running around in circles where there is no circle marked, "imaginary circle" could be used and would sound perfectly fine. Another option might be "invisible circle" or "unmarked circle."

  • I have some trouble with the idea that a painted circle is a 'real' circle, and the circular path followed by someone continually turning in the same direction while they run, so that they arrive where they started, is not. Jun 3 at 11:35
  • Children might call it a pretend circle.
    – mdewey
    Jun 3 at 12:34
  • @Michael, the distinction would be between an "imaginary" circle and a "painted" one, rather than a "real" one. Of course all representations of circles are approximations so a "real" circle in the sense of true is not really possible; I was more highlighting the difference between a pre-defined circle and one made up by the runner. I think "imaginary" sounds natural in that context.
    – randomhead
    Jun 3 at 14:48

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