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

Throughout the book, Janina comes across as righteous and even fanatical in her beliefs, but essentially impotent and harmless. Michael Upchurch,, "Polish novelist Olga Tokarczuk explores the reaches of one woman’s isolation," 7 Aug. 2019 That’s where regret from an impotent trade deadline may kick in. Gabe Lacques, USA TODAY, "MLB playoff rankings: Eight best World Series bets after the trade deadline," 31 July 2019 As their pain increases, so too should our impatience with any ideology that renders us too cold to listen or too impotent to act. David Brog, National Review, "What Bret Stephens Gets Wrong about National Conservatives," 1 Aug. 2019 Nigeria, a democracy whose government—for all its flaws—is far less impotent than Somalia’s, is bound to resent foreign navies or mercenaries off its coast. The Economist, "The Gulf of Guinea is now the world’s worst piracy hotspot," 29 June 2019 That has left many non-Conservatives watching the race with impotent frustration. Washington Post, "Who will choose the next UK leader? Mostly older white men," 22 June 2019 Brady, stewing in impotent rage, finally calls to Lake Oswego police to blame the crime on Tabitha, Elodie, and Moe. Ariana Romero,, "R29 Binge Club: Netflix’s Trinkets Recap," 15 June 2019 As the torrent of verbiage washed over the hearing room, fellow Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy could only glower at Biden in impotent frustration. Andrew Cockburn, Harper's magazine, "No Joe!," 10 June 2019 At this point in life, I’m habituated to the inevitability that the most impotent mid-season episodes of a Netflix drama will also be the ones that are 57 minutes long. Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic, "The TV Is Too Damn Long," 9 June 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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Statistics for impotent

Last Updated

8 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

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).


one from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

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