Word of the Day : October 22, 2011


adjective im-POR-chuh-nut


1 : troublesomely urgent : overly persistent in request or demand

2 : troublesome

Did You Know?

"Importunate" has been part of the English language since the 16th century, and the synonymous "importune" arrived even earlier, in the 15th century. The seemingly superfluous inclusion of the suffix "-ate" in "importunate" is a bit mysterious; one theory is that English speakers modeled the adjective after words like "obstinate." "Importune" and "importunate" come from Latin "importunus." The prefix "im-" means "not," and "importunus" can be contrasted with Latin "opportunus," which shares its meaning with and is the ancestor of our "opportune," meaning "suitable or timely." (The connection is obscure now, but "opportunus" itself harks back to the Latin phrase "ob portum," meaning "[coming] to harbor.") "Importune," and later "importunate," once meant "inopportune, untimely," but that sense is now obsolete.


Sylvia was becoming fed up with the importunate phone calls she continued to receive from charities seeking donations.

"We'd navigate our way across the floor, nodding at random well-wishers and the venerable handwaves of the press, with their importunate requests for exclusive photographs politely declined."-- From Craig Silvey’s 2011 novel Jasper Jones

Test Your Memory

What word completes this sentence from a recent Word of the Day piece: "Some days it seemed as though the toddler barely ate enough to __________ a goldfish, whereas other days she was ravenous"? The answer is ...


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