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 Republicans in states across the country cite alleged fraud in the 2020 election – despite no evidence that any occurred – as the impetus behind their push. The Conversation, "Why corporate America appears to be drifting away from the Republican Party," 22 Apr. 2021 During the last election cycle, DeVore said, Democrats tried using the COVID-19 pandemic as an impetus to go to court to achieve an expansion of voting rights they had been denied by the Legislature. James Barragán, Dallas News, "Former Harris County clerk: No ‘regrets’ over voting programs that sparked Texas legislative backlash," 16 Apr. 2021 Some migrants point to the change in White House policies, notably Biden's reversal of former President Donald Trump's policy of returning unaccompanied minors to Mexico, as the impetus for their journeys to the border. Mike Brest, Washington Examiner, "Child abandoned near border asks Border Patrol agent for help," 7 Apr. 2021 Democrats, for their part, point to the wholesale Republican push to curb voting rights as the impetus for more urgently pressing ahead on H.R. 1, which could serve as a backstop to thwart the state-level clamp down on voting. Kendall Karson, ABC News, "GOP warns HR 1 could be 'absolutely devastating for Republicans'," 20 Mar. 2021 During the first half the 2010s, workers unionized at several auto parts suppliers in Alabama and elsewhere in the South, often citing low pay and benefits as the impetus. Noam Scheiber, New York Times, "Amazon Says It Pays Alabama Workers Well; Other Local Employers Pay More," 18 Mar. 2021 As far as the impetus for the project, former Parma Heights City Engineer Dan Neff previously told the nearly 1,100-foot water main, which currently has four and six-inch pipe, is in horrible condition. John Benson, cleveland, "Parma Heights begins water main replacement project, shuts down Greenbrier Commons campus area," 17 Mar. 2021 The impetus for vaccine passports or certifications is more likely to come from the private sector itself. Los Angeles Times, "Column: Stop grousing about vaccine ‘passports’ — they’re the key to reopening society," 5 Apr. 2021 What is the impetus for publishing the open letter now? Eliana Dockterman, Time, "'Our Feminism Must Be Unapologetically Expansive.' More Than 465 Activists and Celebrities Signed an Open Letter Supporting Trans Women and Girls," 31 Mar. 2021

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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Time Traveler for impetus

Time Traveler

The first known use of impetus was in 1641

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Last Updated

29 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Impetus.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for impetus



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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