impetus

noun
im·​pe·​tus | \ ˈim-pə-təs \

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

While none of McCarrick’s accusers explicitly cited the #MeToo movement as impetus for their coming forward, a change in attitudes toward those who raise allegations of abuse has made speaking out less difficult. Tara Isabella Burton, Vox, "New Catholic sex abuse allegations show how long justice can take in a 16-year scandal," 24 Aug. 2018 In the documentary, Trump’s election serves as the impetus for all this political ruckus. Yohana Desta, HWD, "The Establishment Didn’t Think Ocasio-Cortez Could Win—But This Documentary Filmmaker Did," 29 June 2018 Trump's executive order was the first of four that used national security as an impetus to restrict the migration of refugees and individuals from certain Muslim-majority countries. Pamela Ren Larson, azcentral, "On World Refugee Day, refugee numbers are plummeting in U.S., Arizona under Trump," 20 June 2018 From Michael Jordan to Mark Buehrle, Chicago has heard all about athletes who used getting cut in high school as the impetus for growth. David Haugh, chicagotribune.com, "Thanks, hockey, for making my son stronger and helping fathers understand kids a little better," 15 June 2018 Bulson and Ring both cited the deadly 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., as an impetus to revamp safety and security planning. David Anderson, The Aegis, "Harford superintendent candidates stress planning, preparation, collaboration in school safety protocols," 18 May 2018 Representation serves as an impetus behind much of Normani’s drive, and growing up seeing supermodel Naomi Campbell strutting her stuff fueled her interest in style. Janelle Okwodu, Vogue, "Normani Is Ready for Her Close-Up," 15 May 2018 Lawmakers described Clark's killing, and other instances in which officers shot black and Latino residents, as the impetus behind the legislation. Liam Dillon, latimes.com, "After Stephon Clark shooting, California lawmakers push to make it easier to prosecute police officers," 4 Apr. 2018 Kavanagh cited the large number of Irish-Americans in the region as an impetus for making Philadelphia its 12th destination in North America. Andrew Maykuth, Philly.com, "Aer Lingus cleared for takeoff at Philadelphia airport," 30 Jan. 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

9 Jan 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

: 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

Comments on impetus

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