tr.v. im·i·tat·ed, im·i·tat·ing, im·i·tates
1. To use or follow as a model: Your brother imitates you because he admires you.
a. To copy the mannerisms or speech of; mimic: amused her friends by imitating the teachers.
b. To copy (mannerisms or speech): Can you imitate his accent?
3. To copy exactly; reproduce: "drugs that can imitate the hormone's positive effects while reducing its adverse effects" (The Scientist).
4. To appear like; resemble: a fishing lure that imitates a minnow.
[Latin imitārī, imitāt-; see aim- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Synonyms: imitate, copy, mimic, ape, parody, simulate
These verbs mean to follow something or someone taken as a model. To imitate is to act like or follow a pattern or style set by another: "The Blue Jay is ... a renowned vocal mimic, with the uncanny ability to imitate hawk calls" (Marie Read).
To copy is to duplicate an original as precisely as possible: "His grandfather had spent a laborious life-time in Rome, copying the Old Masters for a generation which lacked the facile resource of the camera" (Edith Wharton).
To mimic is to make a close imitation, often to ridicule: "[He] mimicked the vacuum salesman as he explained his attachments, clearing his throat before each sentence, twisting the phantom hose" (Deirdre McNamer).
To ape is to follow another's lead, often with an absurd result: "Those [superior] states of mind do not come from aping an alien culture" (John Russell).
To parody is either to imitate comically or to attempt a serious imitation and fail: "All these peculiarities [of Samuel Johnson's literary style] have been imitated by his admirers and parodied by his assailants" (Thomas Macaulay).
To simulate is to replicate something's appearance or character: "An ecological community can sometimes simulate the intricate harmony of a single organism" (Richard Dawkins).
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
The American Heritage Dictionary Blog
Check out our blog, updated regularly, for new words and revised definitions, interesting images from the 5th edition, discussions of usage, and more.