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

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 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,, "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

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

25 Mar 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

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Spanish Central: Translation of impunity

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Britannica English: Translation of impunity for Arabic Speakers

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