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[im-pi-tuh s] /ˈɪm pɪ təs/
noun, plural impetuses.
a moving force; impulse; stimulus:
The grant for building the opera house gave impetus to the city's cultural life.
(broadly) the momentum of a moving body, especially with reference to the cause of motion.
Origin of impetus
1650-60; < Latin: an attack, literally, a rushing into, perhaps by haplology from *impetitus (though the expected form would be *impetītus; see appetite), equivalent to impetī-, variant stem of impetere to attack (im- im-1 + petere to make for, assault) + -tus suffix of v. action
Can be confused
impetus, impotence, sterility.
1. stimulation, spur, boost. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for impetus
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Perhaps the impetus may be given them by the pressure of the currents from the poles.

    A Voyage round the World W.H.G. Kingston
  • There was no shock of any kind; the bridge had no impetus except from its own weight.

    Alexander's Bridge and The Barrel Organ Willa Cather and Alfred Noyes
  • With all these things to give an impetus to the sale of tickets, it was little wonder that they were disposed of readily.

    Left Behind James Otis
  • The impetus of the crowd had carried Miette and Silvere along in this direction.

  • Something merciless is there not in this conjunction of restriction and impetus?

    The Open Air Richard Jefferies
British Dictionary definitions for impetus


noun (pl) -tuses
an impelling movement or force; incentive or impulse; stimulus
(physics) the force that sets a body in motion or that tends to resist changes in a body's motion
Word Origin
C17: from Latin: attack, from impetere to assail, from im- (in) + petere to make for, seek out
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for impetus

early 15c., impetous "rapid movement, rush;" 1640s, with modern spelling, "force with which a body moves, driving force," from Latin impetus "attack, assault, onset, impulse, violence, vigor, force, passion," related to impetere "to attack," from assimilated form of in- "into, in, on, upon" (see in- (2)) + petere "aim for, rush at" (see petition (n.)).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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