em·​i·​nent ˈe-mə-nənt How to pronounce eminent (audio)
: exhibiting eminence especially in standing above others in some quality or position : prominent
: standing out so as to be readily perceived or noted : conspicuous
: jutting out : projecting

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On Imminent and Eminent

Imminent bears a close resemblance to eminent, and native English-speakers can be excused if they sometimes have to check their spelling. No surprise, really, since the two, despite their very distinct meanings, come from near-identical sources. The Latin minēre means basically “to project, overhang,” and it forms the root of other Latin words. One added the prefix e-, meaning “out from,” to produce eminēre, “to stand out”; another took the prefix im-, meaning “upon,” and became imminēre, “to project.” The difference between “stand out” and “project” is obviously small. Still, even when eminent and imminent first appeared as English words in the 15th and 16th centuries respectively, they were clearly distinct in meaning, imminent’s prefix having strengthened the “overhang” sense of minēre to give the word its frequent suggestion of looming threat.

Choose the Right Synonym for eminent

famous, renowned, celebrated, noted, notorious, distinguished, eminent, illustrious mean known far and wide.

famous implies little more than the fact of being, sometimes briefly, widely and popularly known.

a famous actress

renowned implies more glory and acclamation.

one of the most renowned figures in sports history

celebrated implies notice and attention especially in print.

the most celebrated beauty of her day

noted suggests well-deserved public attention.

the noted mystery writer

notorious frequently adds to famous an implication of questionableness or evil.

a notorious gangster

distinguished implies acknowledged excellence or superiority.

a distinguished scientist who won the Nobel Prize

eminent implies even greater prominence for outstanding quality or character.

the country's most eminent writers

illustrious stresses enduring honor and glory attached to a deed or person.

illustrious war heroes

Examples of eminent in a Sentence

The trend discerned by Wilde a century ago, of course, has only accelerated in recent years, as the line between trashy celebrity exposés and serious biographies of eminent artists, statesmen and thinkers has grown increasingly blurred. Michiko Kakutani, New York Times, 20 May 1994
Next year sees the 150th anniversary of the 'invention' of the dinosaurs by the eminent English anatomist and palaeontologist, Richard Owen. Nicholas Fraser, Nature, 20 & 27 Dec. 1990
many eminent surgeons are on the hospital's staff
Recent Examples on the Web Writing for Yard began in earnest in early 2022, and by February 2023 the band had submitted the record – and signed with eminent indie label ANTI-, currently home to an eclectic roster that includes Fleet Foxes, Mavis Staples, MJ Lenderman and Japandroids. Eric Renner Brown, Billboard, 30 Nov. 2023 Even with the most eminent Hollywood figures—Alfred Hitchcock, Howard Hawks, and John Ford—discussion of their films is dispersed, their art never considered in its unity. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 30 Oct. 2023 In the treetops above the Willamette River, with open views of Mount Saint Helens and the downtown Portland skyline, one of only two private residences in Oregon that were designed by eminent modernist architect Richard Neutra is now available for $3.55 million. Mark David, Robb Report, 15 Nov. 2023 The Catena announcement credited Jancis Robinson, the eminent British wine writer who has championed lighter bottles for years, and this column in The Washington Post for raising consumer awareness of the importance of bottle weight and urging wineries to change. Dave McIntyre, Washington Post, 9 Nov. 2023 Motyl, an eminent scholar of nationalism and central Europe, has of late established himself as a valuable analyst of the war in Ukraine. Alexander Motyl, Foreign Affairs, 24 Oct. 2023 Now convicted of killing eight scientific team members at Antarctic research station Polaris VI, terrified of Maggie, and his career, reputation and life over, by his own estimation, eminent and egomaniacal biologist Arthur Wilde is sprung from Portaloise Prison, Ireland, by a shadowy corporation. Liza Foreman, Variety, 17 Oct. 2023 Another victim, an eminent pathologist, was a personal mentor of Najjar’s. Adam Rasgon, The New Yorker, 20 Oct. 2023 The ensemble scored a contract with the eminent label Deutsche Grammophon, which wanted new digital versions of as much music as the group could set down. Zachary Woolfe, New York Times, 19 Oct. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'eminent.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English, "standing out, exceed other things in quality or degree," borrowed from Anglo-French & Latin; Anglo-French, "high, lofty" (also continental Old French), borrowed from Latin ēminent-, ēminens "standing out above a surface, projecting, outstanding in merit or importance," from present participle of ēminēre "to stick out, protrude, project, be preeminent, excel," from ē-, variant of ex- ex- entry 1 + -minēre, taken to mean "stand out, rise above" (unattested without a prefix) — more at minatory

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of eminent was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near eminent

Cite this Entry

“Eminent.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/eminent. Accessed 10 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


em·​i·​nent ˈem-i-nənt How to pronounce eminent (audio)
: standing above others especially in rank, worth, or achievement
an eminent physician
eminently adverb

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