im·​per·​son·​al | \ (ˌ)im-ˈpərs-nəl How to pronounce impersonal (audio) , -ˈpər-sə-nəl \

Definition of impersonal

1a : denoting the verbal action of an unspecified agent and hence used with no expressed subject (such as methinks) or with a merely formal subject (such as rained in it rained)
b of a pronoun : indefinite
2a : having no personal reference or connection impersonal criticism
b : not engaging the human personality or emotions the machine as compared with the hand tool is an impersonal agency— John Dewey
c : not existing as a person : not having human qualities or characteristics

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Other Words from impersonal

impersonality \ (ˌ)im-​ˌpər-​sə-​ˈna-​lə-​tē How to pronounce impersonality (audio) \ noun
impersonally \ (ˌ)im-​ˈpərs-​nə-​lē How to pronounce impersonally (audio) , -​ˈpər-​sə-​nə-​lē \ adverb

Examples of impersonal in a Sentence

We discussed the weather and other impersonal topics. He maintained an impersonal, professional attitude. “Rained” in “it rained” is an impersonal verb.
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Recent Examples on the Web Sontag was rigorously impersonal in her approach, stubbornly un-fragile, stoic in her persona on the page. New York Times, "Cult of the Literary Sad Woman," 12 Nov. 2019 Others see trust in impersonal terms, embedded in the rules, norms, institutions and alliances that bind countries to each other. Mieczysław P. Boduszyński, The Conversation, "Broken trust: How Iraqis lost their faith in Washington, long before the Kurds did," 21 Nov. 2019 These thinkers continued a search for the impersonal perspective on politics that Rawls had put at the heart of the field. Jedediah Britton-purdy, The New Republic, "What John Rawls Missed," 29 Oct. 2019 Sometimes considered cold and impersonal, Bauhaus may not be to everyone’s taste. National Geographic, "Why is Bauhaus such a big deal in design?," 15 Oct. 2019 Superhero productions feature three women striding silently into battle rather than none, and reliably include actors of color in roles of ahistorical and impersonal substance. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, "The Twenty-Seven Best Movies of the Decade," 27 Nov. 2019 Quite a few, though, comment on the unpleasant and impersonal nature of the system. Danielle Ofri, STAT, "The EMR has changed the doctor-patient duet into a ménage-à-trois," 31 Oct. 2019 His impersonal condominium is decorated in upscale products ordered from brand-name catalogs. Patrick Z. Mcgavin, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Fight Club': THR's 1999 Review," 15 Oct. 2019 Epicureanism spread as the Greek city-state fell into decline, empires emerged and social authority grew distant and impersonal. The Economist, "The key to a good life is avoiding pain," 26 Sep. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'impersonal.' 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 impersonal

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for impersonal

Middle English, from Late Latin impersonalis, from Latin in- + Late Latin personalis personal

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Time Traveler for impersonal

Time Traveler

The first known use of impersonal was in the 15th century

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Statistics for impersonal

Last Updated

11 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Impersonal.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 22 January 2020.

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More Definitions for impersonal


How to pronounce impersonal (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of impersonal

: having or showing no interest in individual people or their feelings : lacking emotional warmth
: not relating to or influenced by personal feelings
grammar : having no specified subject or no subject other than "it"


im·​per·​son·​al | \ im-ˈpər-sə-nəl How to pronounce impersonal (audio) \

Kids Definition of impersonal

1 : not caring about individual persons or their feelings She disliked the large impersonal city.
2 : not showing or involving personal feelings We discussed the weather and other impersonal topics.

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