im·pu·ni·ty | \im-ˈpyü-nə-tē \

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

Turtle smugglers operated with impunity, at one point burning down a police post in protest of the ban. New York Times, "Saving Turtles in Bali, Egg by Precious Egg," 7 July 2018 Consumer groups note that if the rules change, robocallers could call wrong numbers with impunity, as long as someone who once had that phone number consented to receive robocalls. Susan Tompor, Detroit Free Press, "Could a tsunami of robocalls be heading to our cell phones?," 5 July 2018 Libya has become a lawless state in which fragmented armed groups kill and torture with impunity, the U.N. human rights office (OHCHR) has said, seven years after a revolution toppled dictator Muammar el-Qaddafi. David Brennan, Newsweek, "Humans For Sale: Libyan Slave Trade Continues While Militants Kill and Torture With Impunity, U.N. Says," 21 Mar. 2018 It cannot be effectively challenged, so there is impunity. Milena Buyum, Time, "How Women Activists in Turkey Keep Fighting in a Climate of Fear," 26 Apr. 2018 Brazil’s Army chief shocked many by issuing a veiled warning repudiating impunity on the eve of the court hearing., "Prison Awaits Brazil’s Iconic Ex-President Lula After Court Loss," 5 Apr. 2018 Coburn and Monteagudo took control early, policing the net with impunity. Cincinnati Enquirer,, "Matrka, Zinn take women's doubles title at The Met," 13 July 2018 Critics say his loyalists operate with impunity, creating nothing more than a charade of a democracy. New York Times, "In Troubled Cameroon, U.S. Envoy Is Accused of Election Meddling," 12 July 2018 Hungary’s impunity reflects Fidesz’s membership in the European People’s Party (PPE), the largest party in the European Parliament. Monika Nalepa, Washington Post, "Poland may forcibly ‘retire’ dozens of Supreme Court justices," 10 July 2018

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

23 Sep 2018

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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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Comments on impunity

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


evasion of direct action or statement

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