impetuous

adjective
im·​pet·​u·​ous | \ im-ˈpech-wəs How to pronounce impetuous (audio) ; -ˈpe-chə-, -chü-əs \

Definition of impetuous

1 : marked by impulsive vehemence or passion an impetuous temperament
2 : marked by force and violence of movement or action an impetuous wind

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from impetuous

impetuously adverb
impetuousness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for impetuous

precipitate, headlong, abrupt, impetuous, sudden mean showing undue haste or unexpectedness. precipitate stresses lack of due deliberation and implies prematureness of action. the army's precipitate withdrawal headlong stresses rashness and lack of forethought. a headlong flight from arrest abrupt stresses curtness and a lack of warning or ceremony. an abrupt refusal impetuous stresses extreme impatience or impulsiveness. an impetuous lover proposing marriage sudden stresses unexpectedness and sharpness or violence of action. flew into a sudden rage

What, and Who, Gets Described as Impetuous

Impetuous is often applied to various kinds of behavior, and to the people who exhibit that behavior. Impetuous behavior is often impulsive behavior: the impetuous among us act without thinking long and hard about the consequences of their actions. They are rash and reckless:

The new monarch—the first grandchild of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert—was boastful, arrogant and impetuous. He spent most of his waking hours talking, arguing, shouting, predicting, threatening and generally unbosoming himself of his latest preoccupations to whomever happened to be within earshot. Even when he made the utmost effort to restrain himself, the indiscretions kept slipping out.
— Christopher Clark and Andrew Preston, The New Statesman, 1 Nov. 2016

His characters … often explicitly and conspicuously [reject] advice to take time, find out more, gather information, test assumptions, or consider alternative courses of action. Such impetuous decisions usually lead to greater calamity.
— Edith Hall, in A Companion to Sophocles, 2012

If Nicholas be not always found to be blameless or agreeable, he is not always intended to appear so. He is a young man of an impetuous temper and of little or no experience; and I saw no reason why such a hero should be lifted out of nature.
— Charles Dickens, preface to Nicholas Nickleby, 1839

Passion, ever an inspiration for impetuous behavior, is also often implied, as those guided by the heart take ill-considered action:

This isn't the most historically faithful examination of the relationship between Henry [VIII] and Anne Boleyn, the singular woman who managed to control him, however briefly. But the drama deftly humanizes this impetuous pair as it explores the circumstances that brought them together and drove them apart.
— Tim Smith, The Baltimore Sun, 27, Oct. 2016

The word is, especially in literature, sometimes applied to those that can't, in fact, do much considering at all, ill or otherwise:

A wide plain, where the broadening Floss hurries on between its green banks to the sea, and the loving tide, rushing to meet it, checks its passage with an impetuous embrace.
— George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss, 1860

Sylvie burst in all impetuous, sprang to my lap, and with her paws at my neck, and her little nose and tongue somewhat overpoweringly busy about my face, mouth, and eyes, flourished her bushy tail over the desk, and scattered books and papers far and wide.
— Charlotte Brontë, Villette, 1853

The impulsiveness of an impetuous human is here imagined to exist in a river and a dog. This too is standard use, and not an example of writers being impetuous with word choice.

Did You Know?

When we borrowed impetuous in the late 14th century, we used it of people and their actions. About a hundred years later, we added another sense to describe physical things like wind or storms or seas. (We don't use this second sense much anymore.) The word comes via Middle French from Late Latin impetuosus, which is from impetus. Latin impetus (which of course gave us our own impetus, meaning "driving force") essentially means "assault," but it also has figurative senses ranging from "violence" to "ardor." Our impetuous has a similar range of meaning, from "violent" to "passionate." It also carries the suggestion of impulsiveness. Often, we put a light touch on the word, as when we refer (somewhat longingly, perhaps) to our "impetuous youth."

Examples of impetuous in a Sentence

In one episode of "The Sopranos," … the young, impetuous mobster Christopher Moltisanti … tries to write a screenplay in the hours when he is not robbing trucks or picking up cannolis for Tony. — David Remnick, New Yorker, 2 Apr. 2001 And from the beginning, NASA was trapped beneath the dominoes, as the Soviets knocked off first satellite, first man in space, first earth orbit, first space walk. But it was Kennedy's impetuous science-fiction PR that really put the pressure on, when he promised to put an American on the moon by the end of the decade. — Erik Davis, Village Voice, 26 July 1994 Men who don't wear hats are generally youthful, vigorous, impetuous, and have a devil-may-care glint in their eyes. — Mike Royko, Like I Was Sayin'  … , 1984 He's always been an impetuous young man.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web Conformity, by contrast, is not exactly a specialty at the moment for the impetuous 20-year-old Miami Heat guard. Ira Winderman, sun-sentinel.com, "Tyler Herro gets back to wild-child self and Heat thrive," 31 Dec. 2020 The trick is to embrace uncertainty without fooling yourself into thinking that impetuous decisions can give you control over it. Jason Zweig, WSJ, "Blown Election Calls, the Stock Market and You," 6 Nov. 2020 Does the author believe that Biden should make impetuous choices without the consultation of constitutional scholars? Star Tribune, "Readers Write: Biden and court-packing, Amy Coney Barrett, chlorpyrifos," 27 Oct. 2020 Some members of your household might be in the mood for impetuous fun. Tribune Content Agency, oregonlive, "Horoscope for Oct. 18, 2020: Taurus, social calendar fills; Virgo, compromise to make everyone happy," 18 Oct. 2020 This unique rearrangement of letters appears in a delightful poem observing a grasshopper’s impetuous hopping, rearranging himself! New York Times, "Letters to the Editor," 21 Aug. 2020 The baron was an old man and barely able to defend himself against the young and impetuous Guise, who killed the baron with a single thrust. National Geographic, "En garde! Why France was the dueling capital of Europe," 19 Aug. 2020 The characters all hew to the archetypes Martin originally set forth, in that Kristy is bossy and sometimes impetuous. Hank Stuever, Washington Post, "Netflix’s fresh take on ‘The Baby-Sitters Club’ celebrates the best qualities of a new generation," 2 July 2020 Like Helen, who acts on sentiment, Toby is impetuous and often inconsiderate. Rebecca Mead, The New Yorker, "How Matthew Lopez Transformed “Howards End” Into an Epic Play About Gay Life," 2 Sep. 2019

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

See More

First Known Use of impetuous

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for impetuous

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Late Latin impetuosus, from Latin impetus — see impetus

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about impetuous

Time Traveler for impetuous

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Listen to Our Podcast about impetuous

Statistics for impetuous

Last Updated

10 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Impetuous.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/impetuous. Accessed 27 Feb. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLA Chicago APA Merriam-Webster

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for impetuous

impetuous

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of impetuous

: acting or done quickly and without thought : controlled by emotion rather than thought

impetuous

adjective
im·​pet·​u·​ous | \ im-ˈpe-chə-wəs How to pronounce impetuous (audio) \

Kids Definition of impetuous

: acting or done quickly and without thought : impulsive an impetuous decision

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on impetuous

What made you want to look up impetuous? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

February 2021 Words of the Day Quiz

  • squirrel in winter
  • Which is a synonym of perdure?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!