puis·​sant ˈpwi-sᵊnt How to pronounce puissant (audio)
: having puissance : powerful

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Puissant has some powerful ties to some more commonplace English words. Although puissant has a considerably fancier feel than power and potent, all three words share the same Latin ancestor: posse, a verb meaning "to be able." (English posse, meaning "a group of people sharing some common interest," is also related to the Latin verb but came into the language via the Medieval Latin phrase posse comitatus, literally "power of the county.") Potent came from potent-, potens, a present participle of posse. Power came to us by way of Anglo-French poer, which itself comes from a Vulgar Latin alteration of posse. From poer also came the Anglo-French adjective pussant, meaning "able" or "powerful," and English speakers borrowed that to form puissant in the 15th century.

Examples of puissant in a Sentence

one of the nation's most respected and puissant advocates for the rights of minorities
Recent Examples on the Web Quite the puissant power house—this wine includes aromas of lavender and cedar, rum, sultanas, treacle, black cherries, pine cones and orange rind, as well as tastes that include a raspberry flush and flavors of plums, cola, figs, cocoa and black pepper. Tom Mullen, Forbes, 31 Oct. 2021

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'puissant.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of puissant was in the 15th century


Dictionary Entries Near puissant

Cite this Entry

“Puissant.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/puissant. Accessed 25 Feb. 2024.

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