impunity

noun
im·​pu·​ni·​ty | \ im-ˈpyü-nə-tē \

Definition of impunity

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

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for impunity

Synonyms

exemption, immunity

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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

Politicians choose to work with the violent groups in their countries, giving them impunity in exchange for bribes, campaign contributions, assistance in suppressing opposition voters and other help. Rachel Kleinfeld, WSJ, "The Violence Driving Migration Isn’t Just Gangs," 9 Nov. 2018 For decades, a culture of misogyny has allowed men to act with impunity and without consequence. Abby Gardner, Glamour, "1,600 Men Show Their Support for Christine Blasey Ford in Full-Page New York Times Ad," 26 Sep. 2018 Under no circumstances will the next president of the republic allow corruption or impunity. Patrick J. Mcdonnell, latimes.com, "Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador wins Mexico's presidential election in a massive landslide," 2 July 2018 Victor Clark Alfaro, a Latin American studies professor at San Diego State University who has studied border crime, said killers operate with relative impunity in Tijuana, but not in the United States. Jacob Soboroff, NBC News, "Despite Trump's fears, Tijuana's record violence rarely enters San Diego," 24 June 2018 But concerns surrounding the Chinese government's ability to operate with impunity in Hong Kong have increased in recent years, following the alleged forced abduction of a city bookseller. Ben Westcott, CNN, "Anger in Hong Kong over Beijing's legal jurisdiction in new train station," 15 June 2018 In the run-up to Mexico’s July 1 presidential vote, corruption and impunity for wrongdoers has been a big campaign issue. Fortune, "Welcome to Insider Trading Paradise Where No One Worries About Jail," 22 Mar. 2018 Alexander Mullowney, a police court judge in Washington, DC, urged women to protect themselves on the streets and promised them impunity in his courtroom. Longreads, "Every Woman Her Own Bodyguard," 10 Jan. 2018 Many credit the hard-charging judge with ending a culture of impunity, but others feel the probe has focused too much on da Silva’s leftist Workers’ Party, while giving less attention to politicians on the right. Mauricio Savarese, The Seattle Times, "Brazil judge denies cabinet post a reward for jailing Lula," 6 Nov. 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about impunity

Listen to Our Podcast about impunity

Dictionary Entries near impunity

impunctate

impunely

impunibly

impunity

impure

impurify

impuritan

Statistics for impunity

Last Updated

28 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for impunity

The first known use of impunity was in 1532

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for impunity

impunity

noun

English Language Learners Definition of impunity

: freedom from punishment, harm, or loss

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on impunity

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with impunity

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for impunity

Spanish Central: Translation of impunity

Nglish: Translation of impunity for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of impunity for Arabic Speakers

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).

WORD OF THE DAY

excited commotion or publicity

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

What did you just call me?! A Quiz

  • rows-of-various-emoji
  • If a member of the audience describes your speech as bombastic, does that person mean it is:
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!