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

Rather than an intimate Big Brother that uses murder and terror to possess each soul from the inside out, these digital networks are a Big Other: impersonal systems trained to monitor and shape our actions remotely, unimpeded by law. Shoshana Zuboff, Time, "The Surveillance Threat Is Not What Orwell Imagined," 6 June 2019 If the latter is true, then something practical is always a safe bet, but a gift card or pack of socks can feel hopelessly unimaginative—not to mention impersonal. Madeline Fass, Vogue, "21 Foolproof Father’s Day Gifts That Won’t Break the Bank," 29 May 2019 Like many women, Witte endured years of impersonal care and misdiagnoses throughout her twenties. Akili King, Vogue, "Meet the New Women’s Clinic Making Gynecologist Visits Less Stressful," 7 Mar. 2019 But by doing the wonky thing, by burying all the benefits of the policy in impersonal and largely invisible tax shifts, 732 denied itself any political bargaining power. David Roberts, Vox, "Washington votes no on a carbon tax — again," 6 Nov. 2018 This is not some CSI-style procedural, where catching murderers is a high-tech, bloodless, impersonal operation. Noel Murray, The Verge, "This weekend, stream some ‘Nordic noir’ on Netflix, starting with Deadwind," 9 Nov. 2018 All this is a reminder that election results are not preordained or driven wholly by impersonal forces. Karl Rove, WSJ, "The GOP’s October Comeback," 17 Oct. 2018 There’s a lot to recommend in both: Orléans is tighter but so light on theme as to feel impersonal, while Altiplano has enough charm to carry it through its flabbier moments, and its bag-building core still feels unique. Tom Mendelsohn, Ars Technica, "Altiplano review: A brain-tickling board game about… alpacas," 14 July 2018 But Saarinen finessed the problem rather like corporate architects today finesse the problem of housing large, impersonal, often rapacious organizations in buildings that suggests transparency, openness and idealism. Philip Kennicott, kansascity, "St. Louis’ Gateway Arch emerges with new name, skeptical view of western expansion," 3 July 2018

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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Statistics for impersonal

Last Updated

14 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for impersonal

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

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More Definitions for impersonal



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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