impetus

noun
im·​pe·​tus | \ ˈim-pə-təs How to pronounce impetus (audio) \

Definition of impetus

1a(1) : a driving force : impulse
b : stimulation or encouragement resulting in increased activity
2 : the property possessed by a moving body in virtue of its mass and its motion used of bodies moving suddenly or violently to indicate the origin and intensity of the motion

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Impetus Has Latin Roots

You already have plenty of incentive to learn the origin of "impetus," so we won't force the point. "Impetus" comes from Latin, where it means "attack or assault"; the verb "impetere" was formed by combining the prefix in- with petere, meaning "to go to or seek." "Petere" also gives us other words suggesting a forceful urging or momentum, such as "appetite," "perpetual," and "centripetal." "Impetus" describes the kind of force that encourages an action ("the impetus behind the project") or the momentum of an action already begun ("the meetings only gave impetus to the rumors of a merger").

Examples of impetus in a Sentence

In a revealing comment, Mr. Updike says an impetus for Rabbit, Run was the "threatening" success of Jack Kerouac's On the Road, the signature book of the 1950s Beat Generation, and its frenetic search for sensation. — Dennis Farney, Wall Street Journal, 16 Sept. 1992 But 1939 gave new impetus to the Western with the Cecil B. de Mille railway epic Union Pacific, John Ford's skillful and dramatic Stagecoach,  … and George Marshall's classic comic Western, Destry Rides Again. — Ira Konigsberg, The Complete Film Dictionary, 1987 … new techniques of navigation and shipbuilding enlarged trade and the geographical horizon; newly centralized power absorbed from the declining medieval communes was at the disposal of the monarchies and the growing nationalism of the past century gave it impetus — Barbara W. Tuchman, The March of Folly, 1984 His discoveries have given impetus to further research. the reward money should be sufficient impetus for someone to come forward with information about the robbery
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Recent Examples on the Web

According to the brand, the impetus behind the new-and-improved changes are a true sign of the times. Karina Hoshikawa, Allure, "Exclusive: Skinfix's Products Are Getting More Eco-Friendly Packaging — and Coming to Sephora," 19 Mar. 2019 Those announcements originally created the impetus for Congress to act. Anna Edgerton, Bloomberg.com, "House GOP Meets Again on Immigration as Deal Remains Elusive," 12 June 2018 Some economists said the inflation data should provide impetus to the People’s Bank of China to cut interest rates or take other measures to stimulate growth. WSJ, "China’s Muted Inflation Likely to Spur Policy Easing," 15 Feb. 2019 His work away from his dad provided the impetus for pursuing a career in city government. David Taylor, Houston Chronicle, "Liberty rehires former interim city manager," 3 July 2018 Wars provided an impetus for tax increases, with major hikes during both world wars and the Korean War. Robert J. Shiller, New York Times, "Once Cut, Corporate Income Taxes Are Hard to Restore," 22 June 2018 Second, the Trump corporate tax cuts provided an even stronger impetus. Shawn Tully, Fortune, "Tax Reform Is Lifting Profits, but Beware Wall Street's Blue Sky Forecasts," 7 June 2018 Treasury bears, looking for the still-elusive 3 percent on the 10 year, are hoping a positive number will help provide the impetus to hit their target. Lorcan Roche Kelly, Bloomberg.com, "Five Things You Need to Know to Start Your Day," 6 Apr. 2018 In an excerpt from Good and Mad published in New York Magazine, Traister cites not only my personal favorite angry American woman, Abigail Adams, but the many times American women’s anger has been the impetus for social movements. Jennifer Wright, Harper's BAZAAR, "With Kavanaugh Confirmed, It’s Time to Burn It Down," 6 Oct. 2018

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

1641, in the meaning defined at sense 1a(1)

History and Etymology for impetus

Latin, assault, impetus, from impetere to attack, from in- + petere to go to, seek — more at feather

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Statistics for impetus

Last Updated

1 May 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for impetus

The first known use of impetus was in 1641

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More Definitions for impetus

impetus

noun

English Language Learners Definition of impetus

: a force that causes something (such as a process or activity) to be done or to become more active
technical : a force that causes an object to begin moving or to continue to move

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More from Merriam-Webster on impetus

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for impetus

Spanish Central: Translation of impetus

Nglish: Translation of impetus for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of impetus for Arabic Speakers

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