Under the Impression

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Meaning of Idiom 'Under the Impression'

To be under the impression means to think, assume, or believe something is the case, usually mistakenly. 1,2


"I was under the impression you liked working with John."

"Sorry I missed the meeting. I was under the impression it had been rescheduled."

"Steve is under the impression that you are selling the company. Is there any truth to this?"


Used since at least the early part of the 1800's.

Any of several senses of the word impression as it pertains to the mind or the memory may be alluded to in this idiom. Webster's 1832 Dictionary of the English Language gave the following:

  • The effect which objects produce on the mind. Thus, we say the truths of the Gospel make an impression on the mind; they make no impression, or a deep and lasting impression. The heart is impressed with love or gratitude. We lie open to the impressions of flattery.
  • Image in the mind; idea.
  • [a] Slight, indistinct remembrance. I have an impression that the fact was stated to me, but I cannot clearly recollect it.
1. Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.
2. Kirkpatrick, Elizabeth M. The Wordsworth Dictionary of Idioms. Ware: Wordsworth, 1995.

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