im·​pu·​ni·​ty | \ im-ˈpyü-nə-tē How to pronounce impunity (audio) \

Definition of impunity

: exemption or freedom from punishment, harm, or loss laws were flouted with impunity

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Synonyms for impunity


exemption, immunity

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Did You Know?

Impunity (like the words pain, penal, and punish) traces to the Latin noun poena, meaning "punishment." The Latin word, in turn, came from Greek poinē, meaning "payment" or "penalty." People acting with impunity have prompted use of the word since the 1500s, as in this 1660 example by Englishman Roger Coke: "This unlimited power of doing anything with impunity, will only beget a confidence in kings of doing what they list [desire]." While royals may act with impunity more easily than others, the word impunity can be applied to the lowliest of beings as well as the loftiest: "Certain beetles have learned to detoxify [willow] leaves in their digestive tract so they can eat them with impunity" (Smithsonian, September 1986).

Examples of impunity in a Sentence

she mistakenly believed that she could insult people with impunity

Recent Examples on the Web

The ones whose futures and possibilities are not valued by the men who control the sport and reign from thrones of privilege and impunity. Shireen Ahmed, Time, "This Is the Most Anticipated Women’s World Cup Ever. But Corruption and Abuse Still Block Women From Soccer," 5 June 2019 Many residents view the police as an invading force, defined by their worst instances of abuse and impunity. Ben Austen, The New Republic, "How one American city chose to tackle crime, combat racism, and reckon with the legacy of police brutality," 21 June 2018 At most, only 10 percent of these murders are investigated, so there is a culture of impunity that allows this genocide to persist. Kiratiana Freelon, The Root, "‘Genocide of Black People’: The Killing of Afro-Brazilians by Police Is an Injustice Marielle Franco Was Fighting to End," 26 Apr. 2018 There has been much discussion surrounding R. Kelly’s impunity and ability to avoid police intervention. Morgan Jerkins, Teen Vogue, "R. Kelly and Other Powerful Men Have Always Manipulated Their Teen Fans," 9 Jan. 2019 The pair solved both problems — the gods’ impunity and the narrator god’s identity — after Kilbane’s father, Tom Porter, died, in 2015. Lily Janiak, San Francisco Chronicle, "Mending myths: The Kilbanes rewrite Ovid with ‘Weightless’," 21 Feb. 2018 In a society where impunity is the norm, violence becomes normalized. David Luhnow, WSJ, "Mexicans, Hit by Murder Wave, Face Long, Often Futile Wait for Justice," 25 Dec. 2018 So what about 4chan, the imageboard site where users post just about anything, with anonymity and impunity? Emma Grey Ellis, WIRED, "4Chan Is Turning 15—And Remains the Internet's Teenager," 1 June 2018 Britain wants to build an air fleet of drones designed to overwhelm an enemy’s air defenses, allowing other aircraft to slip through and strike targets with impunity. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "The U.K. Promises to Develop Drone Swarms, But on an Unrealistic Timetable," 12 Feb. 2019

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

1532, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for impunity

Middle French or Latin; Middle French impunité, from Latin impunitat-, impunitas, from impune without punishment, from in- + poena punishment — more at pain

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Statistics for impunity

Last Updated

17 Jun 2019

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Time Traveler for impunity

The first known use of impunity was in 1532

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English Language Learners Definition of impunity

: freedom from punishment, harm, or loss

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More from Merriam-Webster on impunity

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with impunity

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Spanish Central: Translation of impunity

Nglish: Translation of impunity for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of impunity for Arabic Speakers

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showing courage and determination

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