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

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 With political institutions impotent or indifferent, disillusionment becomes pervasive. Samuel Goldman, The Week, 18 May 2022 On the other hand, why these expressions of impotent outrage? Alex Shephard, The New Republic, 25 May 2022 Foiled again by an impotent offensive performance, they were shut out for the third time in their last five games at American Family Field, this time by a score of 10-0 at the hands of the Philadelphia Phillies. Todd Rosiak, Journal Sentinel, 8 June 2022 In truth, the technocrats and the managers are almost always impotent in the face of the authoritarian state. Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, 16 May 2022 Kliff Kingsbury is 8-17 over the final eight games of the season and playoffs in his NFL career, which includes an impotent 34-11 Wild Card loss last January. Jeremy Cluff, The Arizona Republic, 11 May 2022 As international order frays, the U.N. is focused on enlarging impotent bureaucracies and encouraging malevolent ideological campaigns. The Editorial Board, WSJ, 27 Dec. 2021 Will Bolsonaro’s administration be able to provide an important rather than an impotent reason? Bruce Y. Lee, Forbes, 18 Apr. 2022 To date, federal legislative efforts to protect the rights of millions to vote have been impotent. Abdul El-sayed, The New Republic, 10 Mar. 2022 See More

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.

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

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Last Updated

13 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Impotent.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for impotent


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

More from Merriam-Webster on impotent

Nglish: Translation of impotent for Spanish Speakers


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