im·​po·​tent | \ ˈim-pə-tənt How to pronounce impotent (audio) \

Definition of impotent

1a : not potent : lacking in power, strength, or vigor : helpless
b : unable to engage in sexual intercourse because of inability to have and maintain an erection broadly : sterile
2 obsolete : incapable of self-restraint : ungovernable

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Other Words from impotent

impotent noun
impotently adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for impotent



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A police department may be impotent to stop the flow of drugs into a neighborhood. A group of countries may be impotent to force another country to change its human-rights policies. The impotence of a prime minister may be shown by her inability to get an important piece of legislation passed. Impotent and impotence may also have a special meaning, when they refer to a man's inability to have sexual intercourse.

Examples of impotent in a Sentence

an impotent ruler who was just a figurehead
Recent Examples on the Web Farmers are rendered politically impotent by a monopolized market and system of contracts. Robin Kaiser-schatzlein, The New Republic, "Monopolies Make Their Own Rules," 7 July 2020 This final foe, with its torturous taking of human life through viruses and violence, is impotent in the face of the one who stared death in the face and was victorious. Daniel Darling, National Review, "How Good Friday Helps Us Cope with the Pandemic," 10 Apr. 2020 But this time, as economic overseers confront a pandemic that has sent stock markets hurtling downward while provoking talk of a global recession, their tools appear impotent. Peter S. Goodman, New York Times, "Markets Plunge. Economies Stall. Panic Spreads. It All Feels Very 2008.," 13 Mar. 2020 Remember that our families, friends and neighbors are scared, idle, out of work and feel impotent. oregonlive, "As coronavirus outbreak rips through New York City, doctor on front lines leads with words and actions," 23 Mar. 2020 The offense can go from prolific to impotent in a quarter’s time. J. Michael, Indianapolis Star, "Myles Turner’s 3 seals Pacers comeback win vs. Blazers, first post-All-Star win streak," 28 Feb. 2020 Since passing its impotent comprehensive housing policy in 2018, City Hall has repeatedly reminded us that Dallas is short 20,000 affordable housing units. Robert Wilonsky, Dallas News, "‘The tornado messed us up’: Residents in one affordable Dallas community were left twisting in the wind," 21 Feb. 2020 The true pattern of Trumpism—oafish chaos with self-defeating results, evil talk, and impotent action—will continue. Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, "Thirteen (Well, Ten) Ways of Looking at an Impeachment and Acquittal," 8 Feb. 2020 With the legislative branch impotent and hollowed out, the executive branch—and the president who sits atop it—increasingly makes and carries out the policy decisions that shape American lives. Matt Ford, The New Republic, "A Decade of Legal Warfare Has Warped America’s Future," 30 Dec. 2019

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

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for impotent

Middle English, from Anglo-French & Latin; Anglo-French, from Latin impotent-, impotens, from in- + potent-, potens potent

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Time Traveler for impotent

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

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Statistics for impotent

Last Updated

19 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Impotent.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for impotent


How to pronounce impotent (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of impotent

: lacking power or strength
of a man : unable to have sex : unable to get or keep an erection


im·​po·​tent | \ ˈim-pə-tənt How to pronounce impotent (audio) \

Kids Definition of impotent

: lacking in power, ability, or strength an impotent medicine


im·​po·​tent | \ ˈim-pət-ənt How to pronounce impotent (audio) \

Medical Definition of impotent

1 : not potent an impotent vaccine
2 : unable to engage in sexual intercourse because of inability to have and maintain an erection broadly : sterile

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Spanish Central: Translation of impotent

Nglish: Translation of impotent for Spanish Speakers

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