1 : marked by impulsive vehemence or passion
2 : marked by force and violence of movement or action
Did You Know?
When we borrowed impetuous in the late 14th century, we used it of people and their actions. About a hundred years later, we added another sense to describe physical things like wind or storms or seas—this second sense we don't use much anymore. The word comes via Anglo-French from Late Latin impetuosus, which is from impetus. Latin impetus (which of course gave us our own impetus, meaning "driving force") essentially means "assault," but it also has figurative senses ranging from "violence" to "ardor." Our impetuous has a similar range of meaning, from "violent" to "passionate." It also carries the suggestion of impulsiveness. Often, we put a light touch on the word, as when we refer—somewhat longingly, perhaps—to our "impetuous youth."
The impetuous winds forced the hikers to postpone their expedition to the mountain's peak.
"… you care so much that you want to get it right and you're not going to indulge in either impetuous or, in some cases, manufactured responses that make good sound bites but don't produce results. The stakes are too high to play those games." — Barack Obama, quoted in The Atlantic, 10 Mar. 2016
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