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

Impetus Has Latin Roots

Impetus comes from the Latin verb impetere, meaning "to attack," which is a combination of the prefix in-, meaning "toward," with petere, meaning "to go to" or "to seek." Hence, 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
Recent Examples on the Web The impetus of the pandemic makes change desirable. Trond Arne Undheim, Forbes, 21 Apr. 2022 Did the pandemic or recent racial reckoning factor in at all for the impetus of this book? Darcel Rockett,, 3 Feb. 2022 That was part of the impetus of having Harrison do the deed. Los Angeles Times, 8 Jan. 2022 That conversation became the impetus of golf course superintendent Jason Stewart swapping over to become head of the grounds crew for the entire IMS facility. Nathan Brown, The Indianapolis Star, 4 July 2020 This need to elude reality is also the impetus for Catherine’s creation of the Crocodile Bride, a mysterious healer who lives deep in the Black Bayou protected by a gargantuan crocodile. Leah Tyler, ajc, 25 Apr. 2022 This is how powerful new ideas are born, providing an impetus to act—and to act now. Ross Wainwright, Forbes, 22 Apr. 2022 This was the impetus behind the creation of Boys Club, a collective for women and nonbinary people who are interested in learning about crypto. Kaitlyn Tiffany, The Atlantic, 18 Apr. 2022 These complaints were the impetus for the two unionization votes in Bessemer and Staten Island. Washington Post, 1 Apr. 2022 See More

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.

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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Time Traveler for impetus

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The first known use of impetus was in 1641

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impeyan pheasant

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Last Updated

11 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Impetus.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 May. 2022.

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More from Merriam-Webster on impetus

Nglish: Translation of impetus for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of impetus for Arabic Speakers


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