figment of the imagination, a

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figment of (one's)/the imagination

An experience that initially is thought to be real but is actually imagined. I thought I heard the sound of my front door opening last night but it turned out to be a figment of my imagination.
See also: figment, imagination, of
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2022 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

figment of the imagination, a

An imaginary occurrence; a pipe dream. This expression is tautological, since figment means a product of fictitious invention. Nevertheless, it has been used since the mid-nineteenth century. It appeared in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847): “The long dishevelled hair, the swelled black face, the exaggerated stature, were figments of imagination.”
See also: figment, of
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
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