An ideal is a model of something perfect or without equal. As an adjective, ideal describes this ultimate standard for excellence, or something that exists only as an idea.

When we talk about what's ideal, we often refer to a best-case scenario (it would be ideal if you were well-rested before your exam); what we're striving for (it would be ideal for all children to receive an education); or some idea of perfection (the ideal date would be dinner with your favorite movie star). If you have high ideals, you have very strong beliefs about what is good and right, and maybe even how best to save the world.

Definitions of ideal
  1. noun
    the idea of something that is perfect; something that one hopes to attain
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    an ideal accepted by some individual or group
    beau ideal, idol, paragon, perfection
    an ideal instance; a perfect embodiment of a concept
    criterion, standard
    the ideal in terms of which something can be judged
    example, exemplar, good example, model
    something to be imitated
    ego ideal
    (psychoanalysis) the part of the ego that contains an ideal of personal excellence toward which a person strives
    control, control condition
    a standard against which other conditions can be compared in a scientific experiment
    (psychoanalysis) parental figures (and their values) that you introjected as a child; the voice of conscience is usually a parent's voice internalized
    gold standard
    a paragon of excellence
    design criteria
    criteria that designers should meet in designing some system or device
    beaut, beauty
    an outstanding example of its kind
    pacemaker, pacesetter
    a leading instance in its field
    a model considered worthy of imitation
    an impressive or wonderful example of a particular quality
    a rule or standard especially of good behavior
    type of:
    idea, thought
    the content of cognition; the main thing you are thinking about
  2. noun
    model of excellence or perfection of a kind; one having no equal
    synonyms: apotheosis, nonesuch, nonpareil, nonsuch, paragon, saint
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    crackerjack, jimdandy, jimhickey
    someone excellent of their kind
    class act
    someone who shows impressive and stylish excellence
    someone of remarkable excellence
    type of:
    model, role model
    someone worthy of imitation
  3. adjective
    conforming to an ultimate standard of perfection or excellence; embodying an ideal
    being complete of its kind and without defect or blemish
  4. adjective
    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”
    existing only in the mind; separated from embodiment
  5. adjective
    of or relating to the philosophical doctrine of the reality of ideas
    synonyms: idealistic
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