imagination

Imagination refers to the process of forming images or concepts in the mind, often images of things that are not really there. That shark in your bathtub must have been in your imagination — or was it?

Often shunned for living in a dream world, imagination is behind unicorns, Big Foot, and excessive daydreaming. But it’s humans’ ability to picture what is not there, and to be resourceful and creative, that is behind many of our achievements. Maybe that’s why Albert Einstein said “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” After all, without a little imagination, we wouldn’t have the pyramids, the space shuttles, or the Star Wars trilogy.

Definitions of imagination
1

n the ability to form mental images of things or events

“he could still hear her in his imagination
Synonyms:
imagery, imaging, mental imagery
Types:
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mind's eye
the imaging of remembered or invented scenes
vision
a vivid mental image
envisioning, picturing
visual imagery
dream, dreaming
a series of mental images and emotions occurring during sleep
chimaera, chimera
a grotesque product of the imagination
evocation
imaginative re-creation
make-believe, pretence, pretense
imaginative intellectual play
nightmare
a terrifying or deeply upsetting dream
prevision
a prophetic vision (as in a dream)
retrovision
a vision of events in the distant past
Type of:
representational process
any basic cognitive process in which some entity comes to stand for or represent something else

n the formation of a mental image of something that is not perceived as real and is not present to the senses

“popular imagination created a world of demons”
imagination reveals what the world could be”
Synonyms:
imaginativeness, vision
Examples:
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Augeas
(Greek mythology) the mythical Greek king who for 30 years did not clean his stables which contained his vast herd of cattle
Alcyone
(Greek mythology) a woman who was turned into a kingfisher
Arjuna
(Hindu mythology) the warrior prince in the Bhagavad-Gita to whom Krishna explains the nature of being and of God and how humans can come to know God
Death
the personification of death
Gargantua
a voracious giant in Francois Rabelais' book of the same name
Maxwell's demon
an imaginary creature that controls a small hole in a partition that divides a chamber filled with gas into two parts and allows fast molecules to move in one direction and slow molecules to move in the other direction through the hole; this would result in one part of the container becoming warmer and the other cooler, thus decreasing entropy and violating the second law of thermodynamics
Martian
imaginary people who live on the planet Mars
Humpty Dumpty
an egg-shaped character in a nursery rhyme who fell off a wall and could not be put back together again (late 17th century)
Jack Frost
a personification of frost or winter weather
Mammon
(New Testament) a personification of wealth and avarice as an evil spirit
Scylla
(Greek mythology) a sea nymph transformed into a sea monster who lived on one side of a narrow strait; drowned and devoured sailors who tried to escape Charybdis (a whirlpool) on the other side of the strait
Stentor
the mythical Greek warrior with an unusually loud voice who died after losing a shouting contest with Hermes
Dardanus
(Greek mythology) founder of Troy
Ganymede
(Greek mythology) a Trojan boy who was so beautiful that Zeus carried him away to serve as cupbearer to the gods
Hyperborean
(Greek mythology) one of a people that the ancient Greeks believed lived in a warm and sunny land north of the source of the north wind
Niobe
(Greek mythology) the daughter of Tantalus whose boasting about her children provoked Apollo and Artemis to slay them all; Niobe was turned to stone while bewailing her loss
Perseus
(Greek mythology) the son of Zeus who slew Medusa (with the help of Athena and Hermes) and rescued Andromeda from a sea monster
Andromeda
(Greek mythology) an Ethiopian princess and daughter of Cassiopeia; she was fastened to a rock and exposed to a sea monster that was sent by Poseidon, but she was rescued by Perseus and became his wife
Cepheus
(Greek mythology) king of Ethiopia and husband of Cassiopeia
Cassiopeia
(Greek mythology) the wife of Cepheus and mother of Andromeda
Midas
(Greek legend) the greedy king of Phrygia who Dionysus gave the power to turn everything he touched into gold
Sisyphus
(Greek legend) a king in ancient Greece who offended Zeus and whose punishment was to roll a huge boulder to the top of a steep hill; each time the boulder neared the top it rolled back down and Sisyphus was forced to start again
Narcissus
(Greek mythology) a beautiful young man who fell in love with his own reflection
Nibelung
(German mythology) a companion or follower of Siegfried
Bellerophon
(Greek mythology) a mythical hero of Corinth who performed miracles on the winged horse Pegasus (especially killing the monster Chimera)
Paris
(Greek mythology) the prince of Troy who abducted Helen from her husband Menelaus and provoked the Trojan War
Patroclus
(Greek mythology) a friend of Achilles who was killed in the Trojan War; his death led Achilles to return to the fight after his quarrel with Agamemnon
Pegasus
(Greek mythology) the immortal winged horse that sprang from the blood of the slain Medusa; was tamed by Bellerophon with the help of a bridle given him by Athena; as the flying horse of the Muses it is a symbol of highflying imagination
Python
(Greek mythology) dragon killed by Apollo at Delphi
Sarpedon
(Greek mythology) a son of Zeus who became king of Lycia; fought on behalf of the Trojans in the Trojan War and was killed by Patroclus
Siegfried
(German mythology) mythical German warrior hero of the Nibelungenlied who takes possession of the accursed treasure of the Nibelungs by slaying the dragon that guards it and awakens Brynhild and is eventually killed; Sigurd is the Norse counterpart
Sigurd
(Norse mythology) mythical Norse warrior hero who gains an accursed hoard of gold and was killed by Brynhild; Siegfried is the German counterpart
Eumenides
(classical mythology) the hideous snake-haired monsters (usually three in number) who pursued unpunished criminals
Enkidu
legendary friend of Gilgamish
Gilgamish
legendary Sumerian king and hero of Sumerian and Babylonian epics
Sita
wife of the Hindu god Rama; regarded as an ideal of womanhood
Hero
(Greek mythology) priestess of Aphrodite who killed herself when her lover Leander drowned while trying to swim the Hellespont to see her
Leander
(Greek mythology) a youth beloved of Hero who drowned in a storm in the Hellespont on one of his nightly visits to see her
Pygmalion
(Greek mythology) a king who created a statue of a woman and fell in love with it; Aphrodite brought the sculpture to life as Galatea
Galatea
(Greek mythology) a maiden who was first a sculpture created by Pygmalion and was brought to life by Aphrodite in answer to Pygmalion's prayers
Romulus
(Roman mythology) founder of Rome; suckled with his twin brother Remus by a wolf after their parents (Mars and Rhea Silvia) abandoned them; Romulus killed Remus in an argument over the building of Rome
Remus
(Roman mythology) the twin brother of Romulus
Daedalus
(Greek mythology) an Athenian inventor who built the labyrinth of Minos; to escape the labyrinth he fashioned wings for himself and his son Icarus
Icarus
(Greek mythology) son of Daedalus; while escaping from Crete with his father (using the wings Daedalus had made) he flew too close to the sun and the wax melted and he fell into the Aegean and drowned
Procrustes
(Greek mythology) a mythical giant who was a thief and murderer; he would capture people and tie them to an iron bed, stretching them or hacking off their legs to make them fit; was killed by Theseus
Eurydice
(Greek mythology) the wife of Orpheus
Orion
(Greek mythology) a giant Boeotian hunter who pursued the Pleiades and was eventually slain by Artemis; was then placed in the sky as a constellation
Orpheus
(Greek mythology) a great musician; when his wife Eurydice died he went to Hades to get her back but failed
Psyche
(Greek mythology) a beautiful princess loved by Cupid who visited her at night and told her she must not try to see him; became the personification of the soul
Heracles
(classical mythology) a hero noted for his strength; performed 12 immense labors to gain immortality
Pandora
(Greek mythology) the first woman; created by Hephaestus on orders from Zeus who presented her to Epimetheus along with a box filled with evils
Fenrir
(Norse mythology) an enormous wolf that was fathered by Loki and that killed Odin
Volund
(Norse mythology) a wonderful smith; identified with Anglo-Saxon Wayland and Teutonic Wieland
Yggdrasil
(Norse mythology) a huge ash tree whose roots and branches hold the earth and Heaven and Hell together
Ymir
(Norse mythology) the primeval giant slain by Odin and his brothers and from whose body they created the world: the sea from his blood; the earth from his flesh; the mountains from his bones; the sky from his skull
Wayland the Smith
(European mythology) a supernatural smith and king of the elves; identified with Norse Volund
Ajax
a mythical Greek hero; a warrior who fought against Troy in the Iliad
Aladdin
in the Arabian Nights a boy who acquires a magic lamp from which he can summon a genie
Argonaut
(Greek mythology) one of the heroes who sailed with Jason in search of the Golden Fleece
Babar
an imaginary elephant that appears in a series of French books for children
Beatrice
the woman who guided Dante through Paradise in the Divine Comedy
Beowulf
the legendary hero of an anonymous Old English epic poem composed in the early 8th century; he slays a monster and becomes king but dies fighting a dragon
Bluebeard
(fairytale) a monstrous villain who marries seven women; he kills the first six for disobedience
James Bond
British secret operative 007 in novels by Ian Fleming
Valkyrie
(Norse mythology) one of the maidens of Odin who chose heroes to be slain in battle and conducted them to Valhalla
Brer Rabbit
the fictional character of a rabbit who appeared in tales supposedly told by Uncle Remus and first published in 1880
Paul Bunyan
a legendary giant lumberjack of the north woods of the United States and Canada
John Henry
hero of American folk tales; portrayed as an enormously strong black man who worked on the railroads and died from exhaustion after winning a contest with a steam drill
Cheshire cat
a fictional cat with a broad fixed smile on its face; created by Lewis Carroll
Chicken Little
a fictional character who was hit on the head with an acorn and believed that the sky was falling
Cinderella
a fictional young girl who is saved from her stepmother and stepsisters by her fairy godmother and a handsome prince
Colonel Blimp
a pompous reactionary cartoon character created by Sir David Low
Dracula
fictional vampire in a gothic horror novel by Bram Stoker
Jason
(Greek mythology) the husband of Medea and leader of the Argonauts who sailed in quest of the Golden Fleece
Medea
(Greek mythology) a princess of Colchis who aided Jason in taking the Golden Fleece from her father
Laertes
(Greek mythology) the father of Odysseus
Odysseus
(Greek mythology) a famous mythical Greek hero; his return to Ithaca after the siege of Troy was described in the Odyssey
Ulysses
(Roman mythology) Roman spelling for Odysseus
Penelope
(Greek mythology) the wife of Odysseus and a symbol of devotion and fidelity; for 10 years while Odysseus fought the Trojan War she resisted numerous suitors until Odysseus returned and killed them
Theseus
(Greek mythology) a hero and king of Athens who was noted for his many great deeds: killed Procrustes and the Minotaur and defeated the Amazons and united Attica
Tantalus
(Greek mythology) a wicked king and son of Zeus; condemned in Hades to stand in water that receded when he tried to drink and beneath fruit that receded when he reached for it
Achilles
a mythical Greek hero of the Iliad; a foremost Greek warrior at the siege of Troy; when he was a baby his mother tried to make him immortal by bathing him in a magical river but the heel by which she held him remained vulnerable--his `Achilles' heel'
Aeneas
a mythical Greek warrior who was a leader on the Trojan side of the Trojan War; hero of the Aeneid
Atreus
(Greek mythology) the king of Mycenae and father of Agamemnon and of Menelaus
Agamemnon
(Greek mythology) the king who lead the Greeks against Troy in the Trojan War
Menelaus
(Greek mythology) the king of Sparta at the time of the Trojan War; brother of Agamemnon; husband of Helen
Iphigenia
(Greek mythology) the daughter of Clytemnestra and Agamemnon; Agamemnon was obliged to offer her as a sacrifice to Artemis when the Greek fleet was becalmed on its way to Troy; Artemis rescued her and she later became a priestess
Clytemnestra
(Greek mythology) wife of Agamemnon who had him murdered when he returned from the Trojan War
Aegisthus
(Greek mythology) the seducer of Clytemnestra and murderer of Agamemnon who usurped the throne of Mycenae until Agamemnon's son Orestes returned home and killed him
Orestes
(Greek mythology) the son of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra; his sister Electra persuaded him to avenge Agamemnon's death by killing Clytemnestra and Aegisthus
Antigone
(Greek mythology) the daughter of King Oedipus who disobeyed her father and was condemned to death
Creon
(Greek mythology) the brother of Jocasta and uncle of Antigone who became king of Thebes after the fall of Oedipus
Jocasta
(Greek mythology) queen of Thebes who unknowingly married her own son Oedipus
Electra
(Greek mythology) the daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra; persuaded her brother (Orestes) to avenge Agamemnon's death by helping her to kill Clytemnestra and her lover (Aegisthus)
Laocoon
(Greek mythology) the priest of Apollo who warned the Trojans to beware of Greeks bearing gifts when they wanted to accept the Trojan Horse; a god who favored the Greeks (Poseidon or Athena) sent snakes who coiled around Laocoon and his two twin sons killing them
Laius
(Greek mythology) king of Thebes who was unwittingly killed by his son Oedipus
Myrmidon
(Greek mythology) a member of the warriors who followed Achilles on the expedition against Troy
King Oedipus
(Greek mythology) a tragic king of Thebes who unknowingly killed his father Laius and married his mother Jocasta; the subject of the drama `Oedipus Rex' by Sophocles
Tiresias
(Greek mythology) the blind prophet of Thebes who revealed to Oedipus that Oedipus had murdered his father and married his mother
Peleus
a king of the Myrmidons and father of Achilles
Don Quixote
the hero of a romance by Cervantes; chivalrous but impractical
El Cid
the hero of a Spanish epic poem from the 12th century
Fagin
a villainous Jew in a novel by Charles Dickens
Sir John Falstaff
a dissolute character in Shakespeare's plays
Father Brown
a Catholic priest who was the hero of detective stories by G. K. Chesterton
Faustus
an alchemist of German legend who sold his soul to Mephistopheles in exchange for knowledge
Frankenstein
the fictional Swiss scientist who was the protagonist in a gothic novel by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley; he created a monster from parts of corpses
Frankenstein's monster
the monster created by Frankenstein in a gothic novel by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (the creator's name is commonly used to refer to his creation)
Goofy
a cartoon character created by Walt Disney
Gulliver
a fictional Englishman who travels to the imaginary land of Lilliput in a satirical novel by Jonathan Swift
Hamlet
the hero of William Shakespeare's tragedy who hoped to avenge the murder of his father
Hector
(Greek mythology) a mythical Trojan who was killed by Achilles during the Trojan War
Helen of Troy
(Greek mythology) the beautiful daughter of Zeus and Leda who was abducted by Paris; the Greek army sailed to Troy to get her back which resulted in the Trojan War
Captain Horatio Hornblower
a fictional English admiral during the Napoleonic Wars in novels written by C. S. Forester
Iago
the villain in William Shakespeare's tragedy who tricked Othello into murdering his wife
Commissaire Maigret
a fictional detective in novels by Georges Simenon
Kilroy
a nonexistent person popularized by American servicemen during World War II
King Lear
the hero of William Shakespeare's tragedy who was betrayed and mistreated by two of his scheming daughters
Leda
(Greek mythology) a queen of Sparta who was raped by Zeus who had taken the form of a swan; Helen of Troy was conceived in the rape of Leda
Lilliputian
a 6-inch tall inhabitant of Lilliput in a novel by Jonathan Swift
Philip Marlowe
tough cynical detective (one of the early detective heroes in American fiction) created by Raymond Chandler
Wilkins Micawber
fictional character created by Charles Dickens; an eternal optimist
Mother Goose
the imaginary author of a collection of nursery rhymes
Mr. Moto
Japanese sleuth created by John Marquand
Othello
the hero of William Shakespeare's tragedy who would not trust his wife
Pangloss
an incurable optimist in a satire by Voltaire
Pantaloon
a character in the commedia dell'arte; portrayed as a foolish old man
Perry Mason
fictional detective in novels by Erle Stanley Gardner
Peter Pan
the main character in a play and novel by J. M. Barrie; a boy who won't grow up
Pied Piper of Hamelin
the title character in a German folk tale and in a poem by Robert Browning
Pierrot
a male character in French pantomime; usually dressed in white with a whitened face
Pluto
a cartoon character created by Walt Disney
Huckleberry Finn
a mischievous boy in a novel by Mark Twain
Rip van Winkle
the title character in a story by Washington Irving about a man who sleeps for 20 years and doesn't recognize the world when he wakens
Ruritanian
an imaginary inhabitant of Ruritania
Tarzan of the Apes
a man raised by apes who was the hero of a series of novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Tom Sawyer
the boy hero of a novel by Mark Twain
Uncle Remus
the fictional storyteller of tales written in the Black Vernacular and set in the South; the tales were first collected and published in book form in 1880
Uncle Tom
a servile black character in a novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe
Uncle Sam
a personification of the United States government
Sherlock Holmes
a fictitious detective in stories by A. Conan Doyle
Simon Legree
the cruel slave dealer in an anti-slavery novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe
Sinbad the Sailor
in the Arabian Nights a hero who tells of the fantastic adventures he had in his voyages
Snoopy
a fictional beagle in a comic strip drawn by Charles Schulz
Ali Baba
the fictional woodcutter who discovered that `open sesame' opened a cave in the Arabian Nights' Entertainment
Emile
the boy whose upbringing was described by Jean-Jacques Rousseau
protagonist
the principal character in a work of fiction
Houyhnhnm
one of a race of intelligent horses who ruled the Yahoos in a novel by Jonathan Swift
Little John
legendary follower of Robin Hood; noted for his size and strength
Little Red Riding Hood
a girl in a fairy tale who meets a wolf while going to visit her grandmother
Rodya Raskolnikov
a fictional character in Dostoevsky's novel `Crime and Punishment'; he kills old women because he believes he is beyond the bounds of good or evil
Robin Hood
legendary English outlaw of the 12th century; said to have robbed the rich to help the poor
Robinson Crusoe
the hero of Daniel Defoe's novel about a shipwrecked English sailor who survives on a small tropical island
Rumpelstiltskin
a dwarf in one of the fairy stories of the brothers Grimm; tells a woman he will not hold her to a promise if she can guess his name and when she discovers it he is so furious that he destroys himself
Shylock
a merciless usurer in a play by Shakespeare
Father Christmas
the legendary patron saint of children; an imaginary being who is thought to bring presents to children at Christmas
Tristram
(Middle Ages) the nephew of the king of Cornwall who (according to legend) fell in love with his uncle's bride (Iseult) after they mistakenly drank a love potion that left them eternally in love with each other
Iseult
(Middle Ages) the bride of the king of Cornwall who (according to legend) fell in love with the king's nephew (Tristan) after they mistakenly drank a love potion that left them eternally in love with each other
Scaramouche
a stock character in commedia dell'arte depicted as a boastful coward
Svengali
the musician in a novel by George du Maurier who controls Trilby's singing hypnotically
Sweeney Todd
fictional character in a play by George Pitt; a barber who murdered his customers
Tom Thumb
an imaginary hero of English folklore who was no taller than his father's thumb
Trilby
singer in a novel by George du Maurier who was under the control of the hypnotist Svengali
Walter Mitty
fictional character created by James Thurber who daydreams about his adventures and triumphs
Yahoo
one of a race of brutes resembling men but subject to the Houyhnhnms in a novel by Jonathan Swift
King Arthur
a legendary king of the Britons (possibly based on a historical figure in the 6th century but the story has been retold too many times to be sure); said to have led the Knights of the Round Table at Camelot
Sir Galahad
(Arthurian legend) the most virtuous knight of the Round Table; was able to see the Holy Grail
Sir Gawain
(Arthurian legend) a nephew of Arthur and one of the knights of the Round Table
Guenevere
(Arthurian legend) wife of King Arthur; in some versions of the legend she became Lancelot's lover and that led to the end of the Knights of the Round Table
Sir Lancelot
(Arthurian legend) one of the knights of the Round Table; friend of King Arthur until (according to some versions of the legend) he became the lover of Arthur's wife Guinevere
Merlin
(Arthurian legend) the magician who acted as King Arthur's advisor
Priam
(Greek mythology) the last king of Troy; father of Hector and Paris and Cassandra
Sasquatch
large hairy humanoid creature said to live in wilderness areas of the United States and Canada
Loch Ness monster
a large aquatic animal supposed to resemble a serpent or plesiosaur of Loch Ness in Scotland
Fafnir
(Norse mythology) the Norse dragon that guarded a treasure and was slain by Sigurd
Types:
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fictitious place, imaginary place, mythical place
a place that exists only in imagination; a place said to exist in fictional or religious writings
fancy
a kind of imagination that was held by Coleridge to be more casual and superficial than true imagination
fantasy, phantasy
imagination unrestricted by reality
dream, dreaming
imaginative thoughts indulged in while awake
imaginary being, imaginary creature
a creature of the imagination; a person that exists only in legends or myths or fiction
afterworld
the place where you are after you die
Annwfn, Annwn
(Welsh mythology) the other world; land of fairies
Asgard
(Norse mythology) the heavenly dwelling of the Norse gods (the Aesir) and slain war heroes
Atlantis
according to legend, an island in the Atlantic Ocean that Plato said was swallowed by an earthquake
Brobdingnag
a land imagined by Jonathan Swift where everything was enormous
cloud-cuckoo-land
an imaginary place where you say people are when they seem optimistically out of touch with reality
Cockaigne
(Middle Ages) an imaginary land of luxury and idleness
El Dorado, eldorado
an imaginary place of great wealth and opportunity; sought in South America by 16th-century explorers
faerie, faery, fairyland
the enchanted realm of fairies
Heaven
the abode of God and the angels
Elysium
a place or condition of ideal happiness
Hades, Hell, Scheol, infernal region, netherworld, underworld
(religion) the world of the dead
Hell, Inferno, infernal region, nether region, perdition, pit
(Christianity) the abode of Satan and the forces of evil; where sinners suffer eternal punishment
Houyhnhnms
a land imagined by Jonathan Swift where intelligent horses ruled the Yahoos
Laputa
a land imagined by Jonathan Swift where impractical projects were pursued and practical projects neglected
Lilliput
a land imagined by Jonathan Swift that was inhabited by tiny people
limbo
(theology) in Roman Catholicism, the place of unbaptized but innocent or righteous souls (such as infants and virtuous individuals)
limbo
an imaginary place for lost or neglected things
Midgard
(Norse mythology) the abode of humans in Norse mythology
dreamland, dreamworld, never-never land
a pleasing country existing only in dreams or imagination
purgatory
(theology) in Roman Catholic theology the place where those who have died in a state of grace undergo limited torment to expiate their sins
Ruritania
an imaginary kingdom in central Europe; often used as a scene for intrigue and romance
spirit world
any imaginary place where spiritual beings (demons or fairies or angels or the like) abide
Sion, Utopia, Zion
an imaginary place considered to be perfect or ideal
wonderland
an imaginary realm of marvels or wonders
dream, pipe dream
a fantastic but vain hope (from fantasies induced by the opium pipe)
fantasy life, phantasy life
an imaginary life lived in a fantasy world
fairyland, fantasy world, phantasy world
something existing solely in the imagination (but often mistaken for reality)
air castle, castle in Spain, castle in the air, daydream, daydreaming, oneirism, reverie, revery
absentminded dreaming while awake
woolgathering
an idle indulgence in fantasy
hypothetical creature
a creature that has not been observed but is hypothesized to exist
mythical being
an imaginary being of myth or fable
giant
an imaginary figure of superhuman size and strength; appears in folklore and fairy tales
hobbit
an imaginary being similar to a person but smaller and with hairy feet; invented by J.R.R. Tolkien
mermaid
half woman and half fish; lives in the sea
merman
half man and half fish; lives in the sea
Cadmus
(Greek mythology) the brother of Europa and traditional founder of Thebes in Boeotia
monster
an imaginary creature usually having various human and animal parts
witch
a being (usually female) imagined to have special powers derived from the devil
character, fictional character, fictitious character
an imaginary person represented in a work of fiction (play or film or story)
psychopomp
a conductor of souls to the afterworld
sylph
an elemental being believed to inhabit the air
unicorn
an imaginary creature represented as a white horse with a long horn growing from its forehead
Type of:
creative thinking, creativeness, creativity
the ability to create

n the ability to deal resourcefully with unusual problems

Synonyms:
resource, resourcefulness
Types:
armory, armoury, inventory
a collection of resources
Type of:
cleverness, ingeniousness, ingenuity, inventiveness
the power of creative imagination

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