Simple Definition of impunity
: freedom from punishment, harm, or loss
Full Definition of impunity
: exemption or freedom from punishment, harm, or loss <laws were flouted with impunity>
Examples of impunity in a sentence
<she mistakenly believed that she could insult people with impunity>
Did You Know?
Impunity (like the words pain, penal, and punish) traces to the Latin noun poena, meaning "punishment." The Latin word, in turn, came from Greek poinē, meaning "payment" or "penalty." People acting with impunity have prompted use of the word since the 1500s, as in this 1660 example by Englishman Roger Coke: "This unlimited power of doing anything with impunity, will only beget a confidence in kings of doing what they list [desire]." While royals may act with impunity more easily than others, the word impunity can be applied to the lowliest of beings as well as the loftiest: "Certain beetles have learned to detoxify [willow] leaves in their digestive tract so they can eat them with impunity" (Smithsonian, September 1986).
Origin of impunity
Middle French or Latin; Middle French impunité, from Latin impunitat-, impunitas, from impune without punishment, from in- + poena punishment — more at pain
First Known Use: 1532
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