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 Matching Lloyd’s production is a near-impossibility, but the position room is deep. Josh Newman, The Salt Lake Tribune, 31 Mar. 2022 Despite several early term successes, the voting rights standoff, and a separate but similar one over Biden's social welfare and climate plan, emphasize the near-impossibility of enacting major reform with a 50-50 Senate majority. Stephen Collinson, CNN, 18 Jan. 2022 India, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia—two flawed democratic allies and a problematic autocratic friend—show the impossibility of constructing a Manichaean good-versus-evil world of democracy against authoritarianism. Tom Mctague, The Atlantic, 4 Apr. 2022 Trooper Trainee Cameron DeFeo, the class speaker and son of a retired state trooper, talked about inspections during the 28-week training, the impossibility of everyone passing inspections and how class members came together to support each other. Jesse Leavenworth,, 24 Mar. 2022 The impossibility of confining the costs of shock to the enemy makes public finance—which is receiving relatively little attention at present—a critical component of economic warfare, and even of sanctions. Nicholas A. Lambert, WSJ, 18 Mar. 2022 Fanon reads this as the impossibility of the colonizer ever understanding the colonized. New York Times, 14 Mar. 2022 But his son’s absence, and the aching impossibility of closure, had pushed him to reinvent himself as an online detective of sorts. Jason Blevins, The New Yorker, 9 Mar. 2022 The Jewish story in Ukraine testifies to the ambiguity of history, to the absolute impossibility of making an absolute moral judgment against a country and its history. The Salt Lake Tribune, 3 Mar. 2022 See More

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.

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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Last Updated

20 Apr 2022

Cite this Entry

“Impossibility.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for impossibility


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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