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[im-puh-tuh nt] /ˈɪm pə tənt/
not potent; lacking power or ability.
utterly unable (to do something).
without force or effectiveness.
lacking bodily strength or physically helpless.
(of a male) unable to attain or sustain a penile erection.
(especially of a male) sterile.
Obsolete. without restraint.
an impotent person:
therapy for sexual impotents.
Origin of impotent
1350-1400; Middle English < Latin impotent- (stem of impotēns) without power over oneself or others. See im-2, potent1
Related forms
impotently, adverb
1, 2. powerless, helpless. 3. ineffectual, ineffective, feeble, weak. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for impotently
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The disaster rankled in Edward's mind, ever craving vengeance, impotently.

    King Robert the Bruce A. F. Murison
  • Blake raged at that, impotently, pathetically, like an old lion with its teeth drawn.

    The Shadow Arthur Stringer
  • In that query was the riddle which impotently Verplank was trying to solve.

    The Monster

    Edgar Saltus
  • This was resented, but impotently, by the various sovereigns.

    Invention Bradley A. Fiske
  • They both sprang to their feet, and glared at him impotently.

  • She pushed the idea from her, impotently, as one might push at a lava flow.

    The Crux Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  • Five sullen little boys stood and glared at her, impotently.

    Fanny Herself Edna Ferber
  • He raised his clenched hands, only to drop them limply, impotently.

    The Grey Cloak

    Harold MacGrath
  • I doubt that he once thought of the little fortune he had so impotently squandered.

    Roads of Destiny

    O. Henry
British Dictionary definitions for impotently


(when postpositive, often takes an infinitive) lacking sufficient strength; powerless
(esp of males) unable to perform sexual intercourse See erectile impotence
(obsolete) lacking self-control; unrestrained
Derived Forms
impotence, impotency, impotentness, noun
impotently, adverb
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 impotently



late 14c., "physically weak, enfeebled, crippled," from Old French impotent "powerless, weak, incapable," from Latin imponentem (nominative impotens) "lacking control, powerless," from assimilated form of in- "not, opposite of" (see in- (1)) + ponentem (nominative potens) "potent" (see potent).

Meaning "having no power to accomplish anything" is from mid-15c.; that of "completely lacking in sexual power" (of males) is from mid-15c. Middle English also had a native term for this: Cunt-beaten (mid-15c.). The figurative sense in Latin was "without self-control, headstrong, violent." Related: Impotently.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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impotently in Medicine

impotent im·po·tent (ĭm'pə-tənt)

  1. Incapable of sexual intercourse, often because of an inability to achieve or sustain an erection.

  2. Sterile. Used of males.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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