The Meaning of Impetus: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of impetus? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word impetus, including its definition, etymology, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word impetus mean?

According to Cambridge English Dictionary and Merriam-Webster Unabridged English Dictionary, the word impetus is a noun, pronounced ˈɪmpɪtəs. This word means something that encourages a particular action or activity, or makes that activity more effective or energized. This could also be described as a motivation or a drive. If someone finds that motivation for completing something is low, they might try to find a new impetus or a fresh impetus as a driving force to complete said task. This impelling force could goad them into completing something by the promise of either a positive or a negative outcome. Sometimes the initial impetus to complete something winds up being different from the main impetus that causes a person to complete it. For example, the impetus for completing an essay might be to get a good grade in the class. However, if someone is struggling to complete said essay, the further impetus might be rewarding themselves with a trip to get frozen yogurt after it is complete. Try using this word of the day or other new words in a sentence today!

Many other languages also contain words that mean impetus. You may notice that many of these words look and sound similar to the word impetus. These are called cognates, which are words and phrases that mean the same thing as well as look and sound similar between languages. These are often formed when two words have the same root word or language of origin like Latin or Greek. This list of translations for the word impetus is provided by Word Sense.

  • Occitan: impulsion‎ (fem.)
  • Serbo-Croatian: impetus‎ (masc.), impuls‎ (masc.), poticaj‎ (masc.)
  • Bengali: উদ্দীপনা‎
  • Maori: āinga‎
  • Russian: и́мпульс‎ (masc.), сти́мул‎ (masc.), толчо́к‎ (masc.)
  • Dutch: aanleiding‎, impuls‎
  • Persian: برانگیزنده‎ (barangizanda or barangizande)
  • Czech: podnět‎ (masc.)
  • Finnish: sysäys‎
  • German: Antrieb‎ (masc.), Schub‎ (masc.), Anstoß‎ (masc.), Anschub‎ (masc.), Schwung‎ (masc.)
  • Spanish: impulso, ímpeto

What is the origin of the word impetus?

According to Etymonline, the word impetus has been used as a noun since the early 15th century. This comes from the word impetous, meaning a rapid movement or rush, which was used in the 1640s. This comes from the Latin impetus meaning an attack or impulse, and is used figuratively to mean some ardor or passion. This comes from the Latin impetere meaning to attack, from the prefix in meaning onto or upon and the root petere meaning to aim for or rush at. Related words include impeach, impetuous, and impetigo.

What are synonyms and antonyms for the word impetus?

There are many different words and phrases that a person can use in place of the word impetus. These are called synonyms, which are words and phrases that have the same meaning as another word or phrase. Synonyms are useful to know if you are trying not to repeat yourself in conversation or a written work, as well as if you are trying to expand your vocabulary. This list of synonyms for the word impetus is provided by Thesaurus

  • instigation
  • motivation
  • urge
  • incitation
  • predetermination
  • incentive
  • power
  • catalyst
  • incitement
  • reactionary
  • predisposition
  • goad
  • wave maker
  • persuasion
  • goose
  • spur
  • wish
  • impulse
  • gimmick
  • inclination
  • provocation
  • stimulant
  • agitator
  • push
  • encouragement
  • kick
  • radical stimulus
  • energy
  • force
  • actuation
  • motive
  • suggestion
  • drive
  • stimulus
  • synergist
  • momentum
  • action
  • desire
  • angle
  • interest
  • spark plug
  • inducement
  • incendiary
  • right stuff
  • impulsion
  • get up and go
  • ambition
  • reactant
  • pressure
  • reason
  • disposition
  • enzyme
  • hunger
  • fire
  • adjuvant

There are also numerous different words that mean the opposite of the word impetus. These are called antonyms. Antonyms are another great tool to use to expand your English language vocabulary. This list of antonyms for the word impetus is provided by Thesaurus as well. 

  • difficulty
  • stoppage
  • check
  • drawback
  • retardment
  • blank wall
  • block
  • barrier
  • chunk
  • encumbrance
  • clog
  • handicap
  • obstacle
  • delay
  • roadblock
  • rub
  • drag
  • shackle
  • obstruction
  • restraint
  • hurdle
  • flaw
  • tie
  • trammel
  • road block
  • red tape
  • catch
  • jam
  • stumbling block
  • burden
  • bar
  • hazard
  • wall
  • retardation
  • prohibition
  • load
  • disadvantage
  • cramp
  • snag
  • inhibition
  • hindrance
  • dead weight
  • impediment
  • millstone
  • barricade
  • manacle
  • bottleneck
  • detriment
  • chain
  • hitch
  • mass
  • deterrent
  • curb
  • setback
  • fault
  • Catch-22
  • blockage
  • stricture
  • defect
  • stop
  • restriction
  • holdup

How can the word impetus be used in a sentence?

There are many examples of impetus in the English language, and the word impetus can be used in many different ways to describe someone’s motivation or drive to do something. In this example, Sarah’s students have been using the same textbooks since the 90s. She is tired of having to tell them that the information is wrong, and goes to the principal.

Principal: We don’t have the money for new textbooks. We can’t afford it.

Sarah: Well I can’t afford to waste this kind of time telling them that the information is wrong. 

Principal: You’re just going to have to work with it.

Sarah: No, I don’t. I can find another district, or a private school.

Principal: Sarah, relax.

Sarah: No. People threatening to leave or strike is the only impetus for change around here. None of you make any effort to improve teachers’ or students’ lives until something is at stake. 

Overall, the word impetus is a noun that refers to a motivation or a drive to someplace or resume an activity or action. This is a very versatile word that can be used in many different ways in the English language. This word is latin in origin.

Sources:

  1. https://www.wordsense.eu/impetus/#:~:text=From%20Latin%20impetus%20(%22a%20rushing,seek%2C%20fall%20upon%22).
  2. https://www.thesaurus.com/browse/impetus
  3. https://www.thesaurus.com/browse/impediment
  4. https://www.etymonline.com/word/impetus
  5. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/impetus#:~:text=1a(1)%20%3A%20a,encouragement%20resulting%20in%20increased%20activity
  6. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/impetus