What is the difference between notion and conception?

3 Answers 3


According to The Free Online Dictionary, here is a comparison of synonyms of idea:

Synonyms: idea, thought, notion, concept, conception

These nouns refer to what is formed or represented in the mind as the product of mental activity.

Idea has the widest range: "Human history is in essence a history of ideas" (H.G. Wells).

Thought is distinctively intellectual and stresses contemplation and reasoning: "Language is the dress of thought" (Samuel Johnson).

Notion often refers to a vague, general, or even fanciful idea: "She certainly has some notion of drawing" (Rudyard Kipling).

Concept and conception are applied to mental formulations on a broad scale: You seem to have absolutely no concept of time. "Every succeeding scientific discovery makes greater nonsense of old-time conceptions of sovereignty" (Anthony Eden).

  • still confused. what's the diff between idea and mental formulation.
    – user3780
    Mar 9, 2011 at 8:04

One can have many notions about a single concept but a notion usually cannot be about many concepts.


According to dictionary.com, a notion is a vague or imperfect conception.

Thus we may talk about a person having "odd notions" concerning something. On the other hand we may a person has a very "clear conception" of a topic.

So there is a good deal of overlap in meaning but if you wish to emphasise the imperfect nature of an idea you may use notion.

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