im·​mu·​ni·​ty | \i-ˈmyü-nə-tē \
plural immunities

Definition of immunity 

: the quality or state of being immune especially : a condition of being able to resist a particular disease especially through preventing development of a pathogenic microorganism or by counteracting the effects of its products

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Synonyms for immunity


exemption, impunity

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Examples of immunity in a Sentence

They have developed immunity to the virus. They have developed an immunity to the virus.

Recent Examples on the Web

That right is typically waived in an immunity deal, lawyers said. Tatyana Shumsky, WSJ, "For Prosecutors, Homing In on CFOs Yields Clues to Corporate Secrets," 28 Aug. 2018 Many other states and the federal government allow some type of legislative immunity. Rachel Leingang, azcentral, "Video: Arizona lawmaker caught speeding says he drives as fast as 140 mph, claims immunity," 12 July 2018 This signals the doctrine of sovereign immunity has not insulated the city’s police department from liability. Michael Mccann,, "Examining Sterling Brown's Legal Options After Milwaukee Arrest Video Release," 23 May 2018 The evolving use of the immunity idol is the most obvious example. Stephen Fishbach,, "Wendell Holland Wins Survivor After First-Ever Tie Vote," 23 May 2018 Earnings on these routes are bolstered in part by antitrust immunity laws. Ashley Nunes, Washington Post, "The U.S. and UAE resolved an air dispute. Or did they?," 15 May 2018 Kafoury said that's in part because of immunity laws that protect the city from liability and that Kohut hadn't hired him in time to give the city appropriate notice of her intent to sue. Aimee Green,, "Customer who fell in the dark awarded $476,000 by Portland jury," 22 Jan. 2018 German police arrested the intelligence agent a few miles from the border with Austria, where he was stationed as a diplomat at the Iranian embassy and would have enjoyed immunity from prosecution, officials said. Matthew Dalton, WSJ, "Bags of Cash and a Bomb Plot: Inside a Covert Iranian Operation in Europe," 31 Oct. 2018 The most terrifying scenario is one where cyber-criminals are granted immunity from retaliation for stealing money in other countries in exchange for [hacked] intelligence. Casey Newton, The Verge, "Twitter finally draws a line on extremism," 14 Aug. 2018

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

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First Known Use of immunity

14th century, in the meaning defined above

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Statistics for immunity

Last Updated

9 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for immunity

The first known use of immunity was in the 14th century

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English Language Learners Definition of immunity

medical : the power to keep yourself from being affected by a disease

: special protection from what is required for most people by law


im·​mu·​ni·​ty | \i-ˈmyü-nə-tē \
plural immunities

Kids Definition of immunity

1 : freedom from an obligation or penalty to which others are subject immunity from punishment

2 : the power to resist infection whether natural or acquired (as by vaccination)


im·​mu·​ni·​ty | \im-ˈyü-nət-ē \
plural immunities

Medical Definition of immunity 

: the quality or state of being immune especially : a condition of being able to resist a particular disease especially through preventing development of a pathogenic microorganism or by counteracting the effects of its products — see acquired immunity, active immunity, natural immunity, passive immunity

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im·​mu·​ni·​ty | \i-ˈmyü-nə-tē \
plural immunities

Legal Definition of immunity 

1 : exemption from a duty or liability that is granted by law to a person or class of persons a defendant may not take the stand in his own behalf and then claim immunity from cross-examination— W. R. LaFave and A. W. Scott, Jr. also : the affirmative defense of having such an exemption

absolute immunity

: immunity from all personal civil liability without limits or conditions (as a requirement of good faith) — compare qualified immunity in this entry

charitable immunity

: immunity from civil liability especially for negligent torts that is granted to a charitable or nonprofit organization (as a hospital)

constitutional immunity

: immunity (as from a tax) that is granted or created by a constitution (as the U.S. Constitution)

corporate immunity

: immunity from personal liability for tortious acts that is granted to an officer of a corporation who acted in good faith and within the course of his or her duties — see also business judgment rule — compare pierce

diplomatic immunity

: immunity (as from taxes or prosecution) granted to a diplomat

discovery immunity
discretionary immunity

: qualified immunity from civil liability for tortious acts or omissions that arise from a government employee's discretionary acts performed as part of the employee's duties — see also the Federal Tort Claims Act

Note: The Federal Tort Claims Act includes an additional requirement of acting in good faith for the discretionary immunity granted to the federal government.

executive immunity

: immunity granted to officers of the executive branch of government from personal liability for tortious acts or omissions done in the course of carrying out their duties

Note: While the president's executive immunity is absolute, the immunity of other federal executive officials is qualified.

governmental immunity

: discretionary immunity granted to a governmental unit (as an agency) or its employees broadly : sovereign immunity in this entry

judicial immunity

: absolute immunity from civil liability that is granted to judges and other court officers (as prosecutors and grand juries) and quasi-judicial officials for tortious acts or omissions done within the scope of their jurisdiction or authority

legislative immunity

: absolute immunity from civil liability that is granted to legislators for tortious acts or omissions done in the course of legislative activities — see also speech or debate clause

official immunity

: discretionary immunity from personal liability that is granted to public officers for tortious acts and omissions — compare governmental immunity in this entry

qualified immunity

: immunity from civil liability that is conditioned or limited (as by a requirement of good faith or due care) specifically : official immunity from damages for acts that violate another's civil rights that is granted if it can be shown that the acts do not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would be aware — see also Civil Rights Act

sovereign immunity

: the absolute immunity of a sovereign government (as a state) from being sued — see also Federal Tort Claims Act

Note: For an action to be brought against a state or the federal government, sovereign immunity must be waived by the government.

transactional immunity \tran-​ˈzak-​shə-​nəl-​, -​ˈsak-​ \

: immunity from criminal prosecution granted to a witness for an offense related to his or her compelled testimony — see also use immunity in this entry

use immunity

: immunity granted to a witness in a criminal case that prevents the use of the witness's compelled testimony against that witness in a criminal prosecution

Note: Transactional and use immunity are granted to preserve the constitutional protection against self-incrimination. The states grant either form of this immunity, while the federal government grants only use immunity. A witness with use immunity may still be prosecuted, but only based on evidence not gathered from the protected testimony.

2 : a usually statutory prohibition that excludes specific documents or information from discovery

called also discovery immunity

History and Etymology for immunity

Latin immunitas, from immunis exempt from public service, exempt, from in- non- + -munis (from munia services)

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