To Be Under the Impression: Origin and Meaning

to think something is true or real. We usually use this when our belief is being challenged or when someone is wrong.
To be under the impression This phrase has been used since at least the 1800’s. It seems to come from the word ‘impress’ which means to ‘press’ a thing into something else. This gives us the idea that a belief leaves a physical ‘impression’ or ‘mark’ on the mind, like a stamp. The idea stays in your mind because it is ‘printed’ on it. This is linked to the idea of ‘impressing’ someone – you leave a ‘good mark’ on their mind with your behaviour or personality. A negative version of this is if someone is ‘unimpressive’, they leave no ‘mark’ on your mind. In this case you do not remember them and they do not affect you.
1. What do you mean I have to pay! I was under the impression it was free!

2. I’m sorry I missed the meeting, I was under the impression it had been cancelled

3. David is under the impression Sarah loves him, I’m not so sure…

4. The police are under the impression that the criminal has left the country, actually he is hiding in a secret location

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