1 : marked by impulsive vehemence or passion
2 : marked by force and violence of movement or action
After graduating college, rather than embark on a career, Tom made the impetuous decision to hitchhike across the country.
"And it's when he's on the radio one day that he's interrupted by a wild-eyed, impetuous and fetching young woman named Baya Benmahmoud…." -- From a film review by David Fellerath in The Independent Weekly (Durham, N.C.), September 21, 2011
Did You Know?
When we borrowed "impetuous" in the late 14th century, we used it of people and their actions. About a hundred years later, we added another sense to describe physical things like wind or storms or seas. (We don't use this second sense much anymore.) The word comes via Middle French from Late Latin "impetuosus," which is from "impetus." Latin "impetus" (which of course gave us our own "impetus," meaning "driving force") essentially means "assault," but it also has figurative senses ranging from "violence" to "ardor." Our "impetuous" has a similar range of meaning, from "violent" to "passionate." It also carries the suggestion of impulsiveness. Often, we put a light touch on the word, as when we refer (somewhat longingly, perhaps) to our "impetuous youth."
Test Your Memory
What word completes this sentence from a recent Word of the Day piece: "The intern was surprised when her supervisor answered her simple question with a __________ against the company’s treatment of employees"? The answer is ...