Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Idea and Concept

Idea and concept are similar words which are often used interchangeably. For instance, concept is defined by Merriam-Webster as “an abstract or generic idea generalized from particular instances”. Other sources simply define concept as an idea. However, strictly speaking, an idea is a rough mental construct while a concept is a more refined principle which went through a series of analysis. The following discussions further delve into their distinctions.


What is an Idea?

Idea came from the Greek word “idein” which means “to see”; pertinently, idea is synonymous with the words: viewpoints, mental pictures, and outlook. It is our thoughts on what we perceive in various situations. An idea is a rough mental construct which may or may not be spontaneous. It is often the output of group discussions or individual reflections. For instance, a group of students are brainstorming regarding their upcoming school event and their ideas on the decorations, food catering, program, and motif were drawn out. Idea is also defined as a belief or an opinion. For example, based on past experiences and others’ accounts, we have an idea of who is most probably the best political candidate. Moreover, ideas are also defined as impressions. For instance, a bank appraiser is giving his general idea regarding the estimated cost needed in building a 7-storey-apartment.


What is a Concept?

Concept came from the Latin word “conceptus” which means “to take in” or “to receive” as it is an idea which is taken into the mind. One of its definition is “a general idea”; for instance, a concept map shows the main idea and its pertinent sub-ideas. It is also often related with theoretical science such as Einstein’s concept of relativity. For instance, in research papers, the theoretical and conceptual framework of the study is discussed. Relevantly, it also refers to the rationale behind a proposal with specific highlights on the advantages. In advertising, it is defined as a clear idea regarding how a marketing campaign is systematized. In this view, it is generally seen as a brilliant idea which helps publicize a service or commodity. 


Difference between Idea and Concept


As compared to concept, an idea is more often having a rougher form as it is usually an inkling of what something is or what may be done. On the other hand, concept is having more of a fine-tuned form as it generally has gone through a review process or series of analysis.


In the entrepreneurial context, a concept usually refers to a business plan which leads to a venture. As for having a business idea, it has the notion that it is not yet a concrete plan which can be profitably acted on.


As compared to ideas, concept is more related with being general or having a macroscopic view. For instance, some sources define it as “an abstract or general idea”. Also, in concept maps, the main concept and its sub-ideas are illustrated.


A concept is a building block of a theory. A concept leads to propositions which develop into a theory. On the other hand, a theory is a system of ideas which aim to explain a phenomenon or account for a situation.

Tightly Defined

A concept is generally more tightly defined than an idea. For instance, a design concept features a product’s use, details, and target customer needs. In comparison, ideas are often vague with less focus on a specific procedure and related details.

Stages in Planning

Normally, during the planning stage, a number of ideas are initially encouraged and drawn out. After various perspectives are generated, the next phase is “idea screening” which has a more pessimistic view as it eliminates less competitive viewpoints. This leads to having the best ideas. This may then be followed by the “concept development” which progresses the most pertinent ideas into a more tightly defined concept.

Academic/ Technical

Idea is generally perceived as less academic or technical as compared to concept. For instance, concept is more likely associated with scholastic terms such as growth mindset, grit, models, and cause and effect as well as entrepreneurial ones like product concept and marketing concept.


Ideas are more spontaneous as compared to concepts. There are instances when ideas just seem to come out of the blue such as when we have flashes of insight. On the contrary, concepts are thought of for a certain time and the terms, procedures, and other details go through a process.


Idea came from the Greek word “idein” which means “to see” while concept came from the Latin word “conceptus” which means “to take in” or “to receive”.

Idea vs Concept



  • Idea and concept are similar words which are often used interchangeably.
  • An idea is a rough mental construct which may or may not be spontaneous.
  • Concepts are more refined as compared to ideas.
  • Concept in business is something that leads to an entrepreneurial venture while a business idea is a notion with a less specific action plan.
  • An idea is more general while a concept is more specific.
  • Concepts are more closely associated with theories as compared to ideas.
  • Concepts are more tightly defined than ideas.
  • Ideas are more often generated at the initial stages while concepts are at the latter part.
  • As compared to ideas, concepts are more linked with academic and technical terms.
  • Ideas occur more spontaneously than concepts.
  • The etymology of idea came from the Greek word, “idein” which means to see while that of concept came from the Latin word “conceptus” which means “to receive” or “to take in”.


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References :

[0]Image credit: http://www.thebluediamondgallery.com/handwriting/images/concept.jpg

[1]Image credit: https://pixabay.com/de/illustrations/idee-symbol-innovation-logo-3383766/

[2]Hendron, Orlaith. Idea vs Concept. December 2015. https://www.jovoto.com/blog/uncategorized/idea-vs-concept/

[3]Merriam-Webster. Idea. August 2019. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/idea

[4]Merriam-Webster. Concept. August 2019. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/concept

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