ex·​i·​gent ˈek-sə-jənt How to pronounce exigent (audio)
: requiring immediate aid or action
exigent circumstances
: requiring or calling for much : demanding
an exigent client
exigently adverb

Did you know?

Exigent is a derivative of the Latin present participle of exigere, which means "to demand." Since its appearance in Middle English, the law has demanded a lot from exigent. It first served as a noun for a writ issued to summon a defendant to appear in court or else be outlawed. The noun's meaning was then extended to refer to other pressing or critical situations. Its adjectival sense followed and was called upon to testify that something was urgent and needed immediate aid or action. Nowadays, the adjective is seen frequently in legal contexts referring to "exigent circumstances," such as those used to justify a search by police without a warrant.

Example Sentences

started his workday with a flood of exigent matters that required his quick decision
Recent Examples on the Web Nonetheless, the first officer on the case decided his disappearance didn’t meet the criteria for exigent circumstances. Gina Barton, USA Today, 20 Apr. 2023 There are exceptions that allow law enforcement to enter a property without a search warrant, Ellis said, such as exigent circumstances, in which someone inside a home is in danger or could destroy evidence, but none of those would apply because the Saltville property wasn’t in Washington County. Los Angeles Times, 9 Dec. 2022 The expansion of unemployment, initially seen as an exigent backstop, was now portrayed as a golden parachute that encouraged people not to work. E. Tammy Kim, The New Yorker, 31 Oct. 2022 There are exigent circumstances. Geri Stengel, Forbes, 29 Sep. 2021 Cox stressed that, like the cell-site simulator, covert devices can only be used with a court order, or in exigent circumstances. Ivy Scott, BostonGlobe.com, 18 Feb. 2023 For a property to be searched without a warrant there needs to be probable cause and exigent circumstances, for example, entering a home or car when someone's life is at risk or if someone is destroying evidence. Brianna Griff, Chron, 9 Feb. 2023 Benowitz added that because Edwards is dead, there would not be any exigent circumstances for a search in this case. Los Angeles Times, 9 Dec. 2022 Police said exigent circumstances and the fact that the building appeared to be abandoned led them to enter without a warrant. Ngan Ho, Baltimore Sun, 2 June 2022 See More

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

Word History


Latin exigent-, exigens, present participle of exigere to demand — more at exact

First Known Use

1624, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of exigent was in 1624


Dictionary Entries Near exigent

Cite this Entry

“Exigent.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/exigent. Accessed 30 May. 2023.

Legal Definition


ex·​i·​gent ˈek-sə-jənt How to pronounce exigent (audio)
: requiring immediate aid or action see also exigent circumstances
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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