im·​mi·​nent | \ ˈi-mə-nənt How to pronounce imminent (audio) \

Definition of imminent

: ready to take place : happening soon … systems engineers have become rather blasé about the imminent liftoff.— Steven L. Thompson often used of something bad or dangerous seen as menacingly near imminent disasterLike books, board games appear headed for imminent demise at the hands of cathode-ray terminals.— Will Manley

Other Words from imminent

imminently adverb

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.

Examples of imminent in a Sentence

The FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and the local authorities were momentarily stunned, and began frantically trying to prepare for what they feared were further imminent attacks. — Richard A. Clarke, Atlantic, January/February 2005 The compression squashes the bullet slightly, enabling about a half-dozen spiral grooves cut along the barrel's inner wall to grab the bullet and make it spin. That spin stabilizes the bullet's imminent flight. — Peter Weiss, Science News, 11 Jan. 2003 Plaints about the imminent demise of the language are made in every century. But there is usually nothing inherently wrong with most changes the purists deplore. — Steven Pinker, New York Times, 24 Dec. 1999 We are awaiting their imminent arrival. These patients are facing imminent death.
Recent Examples on the Web Signs of imminent danger include talking about putting their affairs in order, saying goodbye to loved ones, giving away their possessions, a sudden shift from anguish to calm, and putting a plan in place to commit suicide. Lisa Bain, Good Housekeeping, 20 May 2022 Putin said Finland and Sweden’s entry into NATO did not represent an imminent danger to Russia, even though their accession, if finalized, would add hundreds of miles to Russia and NATO’s shared border. Missy Ryan, Washington Post, 16 May 2022 Crisis lines are intended for those undergoing an urgent mental health crisis and in imminent danger, like someone considering suicide. Byadjoa Smalls-mantey, ABC News, 13 May 2022 The FSO Safer, a dilapidated oil tanker-turned oil storage vessel, is in imminent danger of spilling its cargo. Manasee Wagh, Popular Mechanics, 12 May 2022 The relative calm in the capital region contrasted with a growing sense of alarm and imminent danger in the country’s separatist Donbas region in the east. Los Angeles Times, 9 Apr. 2022 Russia is in imminent danger of default after the United States cut off the country’s ability to pay its debt using frozen dollars sitting in American banks. David Goldman, CNN, 6 Apr. 2022 However, emergency data requests are intended to be used in instances of imminent danger and don’t require a judge’s signature. William Turton,, 31 Mar. 2022 The point of the emergency requests is to skirt this requirement in cases of imminent danger. Jacob Siegal, BGR, 30 Mar. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'imminent.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of imminent

1528, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for imminent

Middle English imynent, borrowed from Anglo-French & Latin; Anglo-French iminent, emynant, borrowed from Latin imminent-, imminens, present participle of imminēre "to rise up, project so as to overhang (of a structure or natural feature), be intent, impend (of something unpleasant or dangerous), threaten," from im- im- + -minēre, taken to mean "stand out, rise above" (unattested without a prefix) — more at minatory

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The first known use of imminent was in 1528

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Last Updated

17 Jun 2022

Cite this Entry

“Imminent.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Jun. 2022.

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More Definitions for imminent


im·​mi·​nent | \ ˈi-mə-nənt How to pronounce imminent (audio) \

Kids Definition of imminent

: being about to happen imminent danger

More from Merriam-Webster on imminent

Nglish: Translation of imminent for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of imminent for Arabic Speakers


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