I am looking for a word that means something like "daydream" or "fantasy", but without the connotation that I actually want this "imagining" to come true.

For example, something that would fit the sentence "I was on the bus today, and fantasised that the bus crashed and I had to decide who to save first."

Fantasise sounds a touch too sexual to me.

Daydreamed makes it sound like wishful thinking, something I hope will come true in the future.

Imagined is close, but doesn't have the same sense of running through the scenario in detail in my head in the way the other two do. This part is important.

Any other ideas? The sentence can be rephrased as required.

  • 9
    I think that among native speakers, only a severely disturbed individual would perceive any sexual connotations to fantasized in your example context. Apr 9, 2015 at 12:15
  • 8
    As a french, I perceived it :D
    – Yohann V.
    Apr 9, 2015 at 12:20
  • 8
    Sounds like a daymare.
    – WS2
    Apr 9, 2015 at 12:37
  • 3
    @FumbleFingers: haha, perhaps my friends are severely disturbed then :) It's more obvious when the example is something like, say, "I fantasised that the bus was boarded by hijackers who tied us all up", for example, where it might actually be someone's sexual fantasy, when I mean it more in a general "work through a scenario" way.
    – krman
    Apr 9, 2015 at 12:38
  • 10
    Fantasise doesn't sound sexual in this sense, but it does give the impression of wanting the scenario to happen.
    – myol
    Apr 9, 2015 at 15:14

17 Answers 17


"Visualized is pretty neutral - could have positive or negative connotations.

  • 4
    From what I've heard, the situation the OP suggests is pretty common for those trained for dangerous situations, whether a martial artist, fire fighter, police officer, or secret agent. There is a constant running of "visualizations" with every potential interaction, even with passers-by, mentally preparing that person to respond to an imagined threat. As far as I know, "visualize" actually is the word used in that situation.
    – Paul Rowe
    Apr 9, 2015 at 14:29
  • As it happens, a couple of activities I do regularly would fall vaguely into that category (not secret agent level, sadly). Now that I think about it I do imagine these scenarios a lot more when I've recently had to do a lot for those activities...
    – krman
    Apr 11, 2015 at 7:07

I was on the bus today, and envisioned the bus crashing and deciding who to save first.



[WITH OBJECT] Imagine as a future possibility; visualize:

  • 1
    I like this and all the other vision-based answers, but I think "visualised" fits the slightly less formal sentences I'd use in practice.
    – krman
    Apr 11, 2015 at 6:58


  1. [TRANSITIVE] to consider doing something in the future

    • a. to consider the possibility of something happening

      We’re not even contemplating defeat.

      The alternative is too horrible to contemplate.

      Synonyms and related words

      To imagine, or to use your imagination:imagine, suppose, think up...

That definition brings up another suitable word:


Here's a news item that uses contemplate in the title

Emergency Responders Contemplate Train Derailment Disaster Scenario

Personnel from multiple law enforcement and emergency response agencies on Wednesday teamed up with officials with Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway and Amtrak to consider what would happen in the case of a dangerous emergency train derailment. In the proposed scenario, a freight train possibly transporting hazardous materials and an Amtrak train derailed near the Southwest Washington Fairgrounds.

That story used another suitable word:


  • 1
    + I think that contemplate is the term that best fits what OP's looking for, Apr 9, 2015 at 20:01

I think to muse over someone or something can convey the meaning with a neutral connotation: (MW)

  • to reflect or meditate on someone or something.

    • I often muse over the possibility to go and live abroad.
    • She is always musing over the fact she could have stayed single.


  • To envisage is to imagine something that does not yet exist.


  • form a mental image of something that is not present or that is not the case.


  • 2
    'Woolgather' was my first thought. e.g. "I was on the bus today, idly woolgathering: what if the bus crashed, and I had to decide who to save first?" Apr 12, 2015 at 1:33

space out

space also space out

2 [intransitive] informal to stop paying attention and just look in front of you without thinking, especially because you are bored or have taken drugs:


zone out N.Amer. informal fall asleep or lose concentration or consciousness

  • I think this would work better with the more generic use of daydream, e.g. Johnny was daydreaming [or spaced out] in class and didn't remember anything the teacher said, vs I daydreamed [not spaced out] about the bus crashing and....
    – Tim S.
    Apr 11, 2015 at 19:45
  • I agree with @TimS. that this can't really be substituted into the example use.
    – Barmar
    Apr 14, 2015 at 0:22

I've got two suggestions:

One if you want to get your point across without sounding unusual: I was on the bus today, and I imagined vividly that the bus crashed, and I had to decide who to save first.

Then this if you want to be correct, but unusual: I was on the bus today, and I visioned that the bus crashed, and I had to decide who to save first.

Oxford give these examples for visioned:

'Her stomach lurched as she visioned her father in that mess.'

'One chapter, darkly visioning Conrad's clinch with his dead ex-partner's mother, is remarkable and truly shocking.'

The problem I see with other people's answers are:

envisioned has future connotation

visualized = create a mental image from something non-visual


You can use :

  • dreamed up

To have an imaginative, unusual or foolish idea, to invent something unreal.

  • dream of/about

To consider, think about, or give serious thought

You can also write :

I was on the bus today, and tried to plan who I had to save first if the bus crashed.

The reader will easily imagine the writer state of mind.



He has a lot of anxiety in his life at the moment, and he was ruminating about it all day at work.


Your best bet is to let the supporting words do the work for you. If this is not an event that you want to happen, and the DayMare (thank you WS2 and Piers Anthony) causes your character stress, then the following phrases might carry the impact that you are looking for: "I couldn't help but ..." "My entire body tensed, while my mind happily played out the most horrific scenario..." "The scenarios played through my head. Each more gruesome than the last. In each one I was presented with an impossible decision."

Hope this gives you an alternative if the correct word does not present itself.


Premonition if it comes true:

"I was on the bus today, and had a premonition that the bus crashed and I had to decide who to save first."


"I pictured the bus crashing..."


"I was on the bus today when an unwanted image sprang to mind. I found myself deciding who to save from this crashed bus.


I was on the bus today, and ideated the bus crashing and deciding who to save first.



[WITH OBJECT] chiefly Psychology
1.0 Form an idea of; imagine or conceive.

1.1 [NO OBJECT] Form ideas; think.

Ideator, a medical derivative of ideate, has strong connotations of death:

A person experiencing suicidal ideation


I genuinely think 'daydream' is fine in this context. It's just a particularly morbid daydream.

  • 1
    That's really a comment, more than it is an answer.
    – Drew
    Apr 10, 2015 at 22:12

I think this could be called a fabrication, a haunting, or a daymare. All have neutral or negative connotations. Or better yet, a contrived daydream


Contemplate is what I thought first came to mind or an appropriate alternative.I also thought of "deliberated" means; engage in long and careful consideration. "she deliberated over the menu"

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