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

Finally, as if to illustrate the impossibility of living in the new Sundarbans, several dozen families pulled up stakes in April and moved to Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. Peter Schwartzstein, National Geographic, "This vanishing forest protects the coasts—and lives—of two countries," 17 June 2019 But like Madonna, Springsteen is telling stories in which people symbolize ideas: the impossibility of outrunning your regrets, for instance, or the cleansing power of hard work. Mikael Wood,, "Review: Bruce Springsteen and Madonna strike a pose, with varied results, on new albums," 13 June 2019 To reach the impossibility of sufficient emotional memory, to transfer from one like person to another the memory imprint. Lewis Hyde, Harper's magazine, "Ars Oblivionalis," 10 June 2019 To put it on one non-Native curator and one Native person to understand something like this is an impossibility. Ashlea Halpern, Condé Nast Traveler, "Inside the First Major Museum Exhibition Celebrating Native Women Artists," 31 May 2019 Beyond their value as personal meditations on otherness, Nuanced outsider and The impossibility of being outside take an incisive view of our broader cultural moment. Marley Marius, Vogue, "At the Honolulu Biennial, Artist Amy Yao Examines Environments and Identity (With the Help of Some Algae)," 12 Mar. 2019 The general impossibility of being able to bridge the gap from sonar to radio waves has been a problem for people looking to build underwater devices that communicate with the outside world, but new research from MIT might provide an answer. Avery Thompson, Popular Mechanics, "Clever New Tech Could Let Subs and Planes Talk Directly," 22 Aug. 2018 And here’s where the impossibility of this team comes to bear: On any given night, when Curry is shimmying and shooting and Thompson is his metronomic shooting self, Durant is the team’s third option. Michael Powell, New York Times, "LeBron James Delivered. Now Does He Exit?," 7 June 2018 In Yao’s second piece, The impossibility of being outside, fireweed—an invasive flowering plant—is allowed to proliferate. Marley Marius, Vogue, "At the Honolulu Biennial, Artist Amy Yao Examines Environments and Identity (With the Help of Some Algae)," 12 Mar. 2019

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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Statistics for impossibility

Last Updated

23 Jun 2019

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Time Traveler for impossibility

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

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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.

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More from Merriam-Webster on impossibility

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with impossibility

Spanish Central: Translation of impossibility

Nglish: Translation of impossibility for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of impossibility for Arabic Speakers

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