im·​mu·​ni·​ty | \ i-ˈmyü-nə-tē How to pronounce immunity (audio) \
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

Hawley notes that Congress passed a law in 1996 (Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act) that grants platforms immunity from liability for content posted by users. John Mccormack, National Review, "Josh Hawley’s Virtue Politics," 20 June 2019 In prior court discussions, it was revealed that Scott is one of the witnesses who had obtained immunity from prosecution. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Witness in SEAL trial says he - not Gallagher - killed wounded Iraqi," 20 June 2019 Research has shown that circadian rhythm, which is effectively a 24-hour internal clock, is vital to human health, regulating not only wakefulness and tiredness, but also hunger, stress, immunity and heart function. Brigit Katz, Smithsonian, "This Norwegian Island Wants to Become the World’s First Time-Free Zone," 19 June 2019 Democrats immediately countered that the immunity assertion was made up, accusing the White House of trying to stonewall their investigations., "White House bars former Trump aide from answering questions about her work," 19 June 2019 The majority of people worldwide think vaccines are safe, according to a new global survey—but the share of doubters is still high enough to threaten immunity. Jamie Ducharme, Time, "Most People Worldwide Trust That Vaccines Are Safe—But the Amount That Don't Is Concerning," 19 June 2019 Jessica was under his influence for years, but eventually developed an immunity to his power. Noah Berlatsky, The Verge, "Since season 1, Jessica Jones has struggled to mix horror with superheroes," 18 June 2019 Congress refused to remove the president’s immunity from prosecution, and Mr. Morales declared Mr. Velásquez persona non grata. Juan Montes, WSJ, "Candidates in Guatemala Target Economic Roots of Migration, but Abandon Graft Agency," 14 June 2019 However, for herd immunity to work a large proportion (90 to 95 percent) of the population need to be vaccinated. Jay R. Jordan, Houston Chronicle, "7 cases of mumps confirmed at Harris County Jail, and there could be more," 13 June 2019

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

24 Jun 2019

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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 How to pronounce immunity (audio) \
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 How to pronounce immunity (audio) \
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 How to pronounce immunity (audio) \
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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