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

The Environmental Protection Agency used existing rules aimed at smog and other air quality concerns and tightened them down to the point that coal would be essentially an impossibility. Chris Stirewalt, Fox News, "What happened to coal," 21 Aug. 2018 Look at Wisconsin, where state Republicans gerrymandered the seats to make Democratic control a near impossibility. Ezra Klein, Vox, "The rigging of American politics," 16 Oct. 2018 Armenia's beauty industry has only just emerged as recently as within the past 10 years While the country recovered from decades of being told what to do, a feeling of impossibility pervaded. Niree Noel, Allure, "The Evolution of Armenia’s Beauty Industry, According to Women Who Witnessed It," 27 July 2018 Despite the near impossibility of finding mathematical solutions to the equations for fluid flows under realistic conditions, science still needs to get some kind of predictive handle on turbulence. Lee Phillips, Ars Technica, "Turbulence, the oldest unsolved problem in physics," 10 Oct. 2018 While most autofiction focuses on the impossibility of knowledge beyond oneself, Cusk’s novels insist on the opposite: her narrator’s experience only comes into focus with the help of other characters. Jordan Larson, The Cut, "Rachel Cusk’s Rules for Living," 25 June 2018 All of which brings us to the single biggest impossibility in the travel industry: getting a refund on a nonrefundable airline ticket. Christopher Elliott,, "Trip insurance with a preexisting condition? Refund on an nonrefundable ticket? What's possible might surprise you.," 30 Mar. 2018 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

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

6 Jan 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 \
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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