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im·​por·​tune ˌim-pər-ˈtün How to pronounce importune (audio)
importuned; importuning; importunes

transitive verb

: to press or urge with troublesome persistence
archaic : to request or beg for urgently

intransitive verb

: to beg, urge, or solicit persistently or troublesomely
importuner noun


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importunely adverb

Did you know?

“Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” Oh, bother. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of this classic road-trip refrain, then you, friend, have been importuned. Importune is most often encountered in formal speech and writing, however, so you’re more likely to have responded “Stop bothering/pestering/annoying me!” (or just “No!”) than “Please cease importuning me while I’m driving!” Nevertheless, importune—like bother, pester, and annoy—conveys irritating doggedness in trying to break down resistance to a request for something, whether information (such as a precise ETA) or a favor, as in “repeated e-mails from organizations importuning me for financial help.” Importune also functions in the legal realm, where it is used for behavior that qualifies as pressing or urging another with troublesome persistence.

Choose the Right Synonym for importune

beg, entreat, beseech, implore, supplicate, adjure, importune mean to ask urgently.

beg suggests earnestness or insistence in the asking.

they begged for help

entreat implies an effort to persuade or to overcome resistance.

entreated me to join them

beseech and implore imply a deeply felt anxiety.

I beseech you to have mercy
implored her not to leave him

supplicate suggests a posture of humility.

with bowed heads they supplicated their Lord

adjure implies advising as well as pleading.

we were adjured to tell the truth

importune suggests an annoying persistence in trying to break down resistance to a request.

importuning viewers for contributions

Examples of importune in a Sentence

Verb He stood on the street corner, importuning passersby for help. He importuned them to help.
Recent Examples on the Web
In 1982, she was importuned to join the board of Bronx River Restoration and readily accepted. Sam Roberts, New York Times, 1 Mar. 2024 For one thing, Acts 156 and 157 alleged in the complaint pick out actions Trump took on September 17, 2021, still importuning Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to decertify the election. Aziz Huq, Time, 21 Aug. 2023 Said brother was importuned only occasionally, a distant wingman to these sorties. Wyatt Mason, Harper's Magazine, 6 Jan. 2023 This may be in part because those whose first overtures were ignored conclude that the widow wants to be left alone, and thus cease to importune her. Jacobina Martin, Washington Post, 22 Aug. 2022 Stewart Dickerson, 64, is charged with importuning and disseminating matter harmful to juveniles, according to jail records. Madeline Mitchell,, 28 Feb. 2020 In exchange for his guilty plea, Cuyahoga County prosecutors dropped charges of importuning and possessing criminal tools. Cory Shaffer, cleveland, 26 Feb. 2020 He is charged with importuning, a fifth-degree felony, court records say. Evan MacDonald, cleveland, 4 Feb. 2020 Instead, Potter senior has to importune a surly centaur. Jason Kehe, Wired, 11 Dec. 2019
The Blazers did not turn the ball over but importune mistakes resulted in the Owls taking an early lead and eventually surging ahead in the second half. Evan Dudley, al, 2 Nov. 2022

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'importune.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



borrowed from Middle French & Medieval Latin; Middle French importuner "to tire, annoy by inappropriate persistence," borrowed from Medieval Latin importūnāre "to harass, pester," verbal derivative of Latin importūnus "unfavorable, inconvenient, adverse, troublesome, relentless" — more at importune entry 2


Middle English, "persistent, overeager, fierce, cruel, grievous, troublesome," borrowed from Anglo-French & Latin; Anglo-French, "persistently troublesome," borrowed from Latin importūnus "not suited to one's purpose, unfavorable, inconvenient, adverse, unaccommodating, troublesome, relentless," probably from im- im- + -portūnus (in opportūnus "favoring one's needs, serviceable, convenient") — more at opportune

Note: The Latin adjective importūnus appears to have been formed as a negative counterpart to opportūnus.

First Known Use


1530, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a


15th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of importune was in the 15th century


Dictionary Entries Near importune

Cite this Entry

“Importune.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


importuned; importuning
: to beg or urge so much as to be a nuisance
importuner noun

Legal Definition


ˌim-pȯr-ˈtün, -ˈtyün; im-ˈpȯr-ˌtyün, -chən
importuned; importuning

transitive verb

: to press or urge with troublesome persistence
who solicits, requests, commands, importunes or intentionally aids another person to engage in conduct which constitutes an offenseGeneral Statutes of Connecticut

intransitive verb

: to beg, urge, or press another persistently or troublesomely compare coerce, solicit

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