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
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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.
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."
Origin and Etymology of impetuous
Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Late Latin impetuosus, from Latin impetus —see impetus
First Known Use: 14th century
Synonym Discussion of impetuous
IMPETUOUS Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of impetuous for English Language Learners
: acting or done quickly and without thought : controlled by emotion rather than thought
IMPETUOUS Defined for Kids
Seen and Heard
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