Impact Meaning: Here’s What it Means and How to Use It

Impact is an incredibly common word with lots of definitions. Read here for the complete guide to impact’s meaning, its etymology, and more.

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Impact is a relatively common word. We use it all the time, but this word has a few different definitions. That means you might be using it slightly incorrectly without even realizing it. It’s just one of those words that has more to it than meets the eye. 

So, today’s word of the day is impact. It might not be the most complex word on your word lists, but it’s an important word to understand. With that in mind here is a complete guide to impact, complete with definitions, history, synonyms, and more.

What Is the Definition of Impact?

Impact, pronounced ɪmˈpækt, has a few different meanings. It can be used both as a noun and as a verb. Here’s the breakdown of each definition of impact according to the dictionary and how they vary. 

As a noun, impact is when something strikes another thing. It can also mean forceful contact or a significant effect.

As a verb, this word means to have a direct effect on something, to strike something forcefully, or to press together.

As you can see, there are a lot of different ways that this word can be applied. In general, the meanings are fairly similar, but understanding the nuances between them can help you convey what you mean even more effectively. 

The Etymology and History of the Word Impact

The word impact — like so many words in the English language — finds its roots in Latin. Specifically, it comes from the Latin impactus, which is the past participle of impingere. This Latin word means “to push against.” 

The word first appeared in English in approximately 1601 CE. It was only used in the transitive verb form, which meant to press together. If you impact two things together, you push them together so firmly that they become fused or packed together so tightly that they won’t move. 

The noun form of the word didn’t come about until much later, in 1781 CE. At this point, it gained the definition of “a forceful contact.” Now, it can be used as the subject of a sentence. 

The ideological sense of the word did not appear until even later in history. But now, impact can describe the significant effect one action or idea has had on another. This usage is perhaps the most common now because, in western culture, people tend to talk a lot about the social impact their actions have and the legacy they leave behind. 

Examples of Impact in Action

Now that you have an idea of the different definitions of impact, let’s look at some examples of impact in a sentence. 

The huge impact of the meteor left a massive crater in the desert that can still be seen to this day.

Jared was in a car accident, but the impact did not give him any injuries.

The tremendous impact that the invention of the printing press had on the progression of humankind simply cannot be understated.

The toxic waste from the factory had an extremely harmful environmental impact.

My high school English teacher, who encouraged me to pursue my dreams, had such a positive impact on me.

The pandemic will impact our lives in more ways than we understand. 

Climate change will directly impact all of our lives if we don’t do something about it.

The baseball left a huge dent as it impacted the hood of his dad’s car.

In general, there are two meanings for this word, whether it is used in its noun form or its verb form. The first refers to the physical strong contact of one object against another, and the second refers to the metaphorical powerful effect an event, person, or action had. 

What Are Synonyms for Impact?

The word has different synonyms depending on the definition being used. Here’s a list of the synonyms you would find in a thesaurus for the word impact. 

As a noun:

  • Collision
  • Crash
  • Jolt
  • Strike
  • Impingement
  • Wallop

As a verb:

  • Affect 
  • Influence 
  • Strike 
  • Sway 

What Are the Grammatical Forms of the Word Impact?

As a verb, impact can be used in many different tenses. Impacted, impacting, impacts, will impact, has impacted — the list goes on and on. 

Impact has also been placed in many different collocations, which are the common pairings of two words. “Big impact,” “major impact,” “negative impact,” “immediate impact,” and more are all commonly used because of how important this word is to our language.

Impact in Popular Culture

In recent years, the word impact has become somewhat of a buzzword. Politicians, CEOs, and other leaders are always concerned with how their actions will impact the world. 

In corporate culture, the word has been used quite a bit in recent decades. Companies make large efforts to help boost the morale of workers by reminding them of the impact that they have on the world, their colleagues, and the daily lives of people. 

Impact is a powerful thing. The fact that our actions can positively or negatively affect somebody else is incredibly significant, and we should use our impact for the good of other people, rather than the opposite. 

The Word Impact

Now you’re familiar with all of the specific definitions of the word impact. By understanding its history and its various meanings, you can now use it in your writing and speech and be confident that you’re using it correctly. If you need a refresher on the word, feel free to come back to this guide to the word impact. 


  1. Affect/effect/impact | The Mayfield Handbook of Technical & Scientific Writing
  2. Impact Definition & Meaning | Britannica Dictionary 
  3. Social Impact: Definition and Why is Social Impact Important? | Duke University