im·​pos·​si·​bil·​i·​ty | \ (ˌ)im-ˌpä-sə-ˈbi-lə-tē How to pronounce impossibility (audio) \

Definition of impossibility

1 : the quality or state of being impossible
2 : something impossible

Examples of impossibility in a Sentence

The blizzard made travel an impossibility. the impossibility of knowing what the future will bring
Recent Examples on the Web Despite the near-impossibility of constructing one of these plants, greater federal investment in nuclear energy appears to be on the table. Mike Pearl, The New Republic, "The Green Fantasy and Messy Reality of Nuclear Power," 23 Dec. 2020 Getting impeached once is an accomplishment, but getting impeached twice is an impossibility. Josh Newman, The Salt Lake Tribune, "Red All Over: Devin Lloyd’s return finishes Utah football’s major offseason business. Can the Utes contend in 2021?," 14 Jan. 2021 With the Fire Department straining to get a class or 25, hiring 63 recruits by the deadline is now an impossibility. Mike A. Perlstein,, "New Orleans Fire Department's $15.9 million grant at risk over slow hiring," 13 Jan. 2021 But his predecessor, Phil Emery, had the unenviable task of trying to maintain a competitive roster with an aging defense, and that was really an impossibility. Brad Biggs,, "Chicago Bears Q&A: Is this team poised for a Cinderella run? Are the front office and coaches safe now, or will the Packers game swing decisions? Is Dwayne Haskins worth a look?," 30 Dec. 2020 Getting her from wheelchair to car was a lengthy ordeal, the cozy back seat an impossibility. Los Angeles Times, "There’s only one way to join this exclusive COVID-19 club," 25 Dec. 2020 Allies stress his role is largely ministerial, and that the electoral count could only be overturned by the lawmakers — a virtual impossibility given that Democrats control the House. Arkansas Online, "Loyal soldier Pence torn between Trump, Constitution," 6 Jan. 2021 For Congress to sustain Mr. Hawley’s opposition, both chambers would have to do so, a virtual impossibility given that Democrats control the House. New York Times, "Hawley Answers Trump’s Call for Election Challenge," 30 Dec. 2020 But without more concerted discussions about climate finance—an umbrella term for how to transfer funds mainly from developed to developing nations—rapid mitigation remains a virtual impossibility for small, developing economies. Kate Aronoff, The New Republic, "How to Make the Paris Agreement Really Work," 29 Dec. 2020

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

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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The first known use of impossibility was in the 14th century

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Statistics for impossibility

Last Updated

19 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Impossibility.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Feb. 2021.

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More Definitions for impossibility



English Language Learners Definition of impossibility

: something that is impossible : something that cannot be done or that cannot happen
: the quality or state of being impossible


im·​pos·​si·​bil·​i·​ty | \ im-ˌpä-sə-ˈbi-lə-tē How to pronounce impossibility (audio) \
plural impossibilities

Kids Definition of impossibility

1 : something that cannot be done or occur Time travel is an impossibility.
2 : the quality or state of being impossible


plural impossibilities

Legal Definition of impossibility

1 : the quality or state of being impossible also : the affirmative defense that something (as performance) is impossible
2 : something impossible
3 : impossibility of performance in this entry
factual impossibility
: impossibility based on factual circumstances specifically : a partial defense to criminal liability based on the incompletion of an intended criminal act

Note: Factual impossibility is not a complete defense and does allow prosecution for attempt or for another inchoate offense. For example, if the defendant constructed a bomb that failed to explode, factual impossibility would be a defense against murder charges, but not attempted murder.

impossibility of performance
1 : a doctrine in contract law that a party may be released from liability for breach of contract for failing to perform an obligation that is rendered impossible by uncontrollable circumstances (as death or failure of the means of delivery)
2 : a defense to breach of contract or a basis for release from contractual obligations because of impossibility of performance — compare frustration, impracticability
legal impossibility
: impossibility based on or with reference to a law specifically : a complete defense to criminal liability based on the commitment of acts that are not criminal or illegal

Note: Legal impossibility is founded on the principle that an act is not a crime unless there is a law prohibiting it.

More from Merriam-Webster on impossibility

Nglish: Translation of impossibility for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of impossibility for Arabic Speakers

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