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


barren, fruitless, infertile, sterile, unfruitful


fat, fertile, fruitful

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Did You Know?

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

The Mahatma viewed with even more impotent sorrow the drifting away of Muslims from the Congress movement, which had set out in the 1880s to represent all Indians without distinction of creed. Ferdinand Mount, WSJ, "‘Gandhi: The Years That Changed the World’ Review: The Prophet as Politician," 1 Nov. 2018 Colon merely has created a simplistic, and thus impotent, paper tiger here; the political and pedagogical force of her work would be far greater if her villain had at least a touch of complexity. Chris Jones,, "'Tilikum' tells dark story of a captive orca at SeaWorld," 29 June 2018 The militants frequently attack vaccination teams — leading to a brief rise of the epidemic in Pakistan — and have spread propaganda that the vaccines are part of a Western conspiracy to make Muslims impotent or stunt the growth of their children. New York Times, "Pakistan’s Taliban Names New Leader After U.S. Drone Strike," 24 June 2018 Waiting in horror to see what happens when an impotent man-baby gets his finger on the nuclear button. Jennifer M. Wood, WIRED, "10 Scathing Political Satires to Stream This Independence Day," 3 July 2018 Meanwhile, the story of Tuesday and the story of Group D has been Argentina’s implosion, and what very well may be a very brief and impotent World Cup farewell for Messi. Brian Straus,, "Argentina Has Plenty of Blame to Go Around as Its World Cup Spirals Out of Control," 21 June 2018 Adding a touch of impotent wisdom to the proceedings is the local intellectual, Dr. Dorn (Jon Tenney), who’s having an affair with the farmer’s wife (Mare Winningham), who weeps a lot. Ty Burr,, "The Seagull’ has great performances but never takes wing," 23 May 2018 Flanagan, who has an appointee on the state’s impotent ethics commission known as JCOPE, made public statements about what a good guy his buddy Klein is, apparently caring not at all at how that would poison any potential investigation. Danielle Tcholakian, Longreads, "Is New York the Most Corrupt State in the Nation?," 11 May 2018 But fortunately for the hosts, a combination of the 23-year-old's recovering block as well as an impotent early Azzurri leading line allowed Three Lions goalkeeper Jack Butland to remain untested., "VAR Controversy Gives Italy Late Penalty in Friendly Draw vs. England," 27 Mar. 2018

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

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

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More Definitions for impotent



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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More from Merriam-Webster on impotent

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for impotent

Spanish Central: Translation of impotent

Nglish: Translation of impotent for Spanish Speakers

Comments on impotent

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


to mark by some ceremony or observation

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