im·pos·si·bil·i·ty | \(ˌ)im-ˌpä-sə-ˈbi-lə-tē \

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

Getting each Power Five conference to adopt a similar nine-game league schedule is more and more an impossibility, to name one contentious topic. Paul Myerberg, USA TODAY, "It's time for college football, NCAA to embrace injury reports with gambling influence rising," 3 July 2018 The moment crystallized for her the impossibility of her situation: So long as these men were on the board of National Amusements, her stake would always be meaningless. Keach Hagey, WSJ, "Shari Redstone’s Path to Power," 22 June 2018 Yet for many, the possibility of returning anytime in the near future seems an impossibility. Hollie Mckay, Fox News, "Under threat and homeless, displaced Iraqis return to the camps," 16 May 2018 With her blatant bigotry, its namesake star made that an impossibility., "How Roseanne Barr Killed Roseanne," 30 May 2018 Both artists have found success in spite of behavior that has landed them in legal trouble, alienated many, and made an uncomplicated embrace of them an impossibility. Jon Caramanica, New York Times, "Two SoundCloud Rap Outlaws Push Boundaries From the Fringes," 21 Mar. 2018 Science has proven the impossibility of the human brain to register self-pity, or maunder on about the generally sorry state of things, while in the presence of canine bellyflops. Krista Stevens, Longreads, "Meet Spitty, the Whippet Who Holds Five World Records," 22 June 2018 Captain Sergio Ramos insisted that Lopetegui's sacking was a practical impossibility, given its proximity to the opening of the World Cup., "Report Claims Julen Lopetegui Sacked as Spain Boss Only After He Refused to Resign Position," 18 June 2018 Anyone who remembers the scene that follows knows the impossibility of such a scenario. Kelly Hushin, Town & Country, "Behind-the-Scenes Secrets from The Sound of Music," 17 Apr. 2017

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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Last Updated

29 Sep 2018

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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 \
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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Comments on impossibility

What made you want to look up impossibility? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to reject or criticize sharply

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