not personal; without reference or connection to a particular person: an impersonal remark.
having no personality; devoid of human character or traits: an impersonal deity.
lacking human emotion or warmth: an impersonal manner.
  1. (of a verb) having only third person singular forms and rarely if ever accompanied by an expressed subject, as Latin pluit “it is raining,” or regularly accompanied by an empty subject word, as English to rain in It is raining.
  2. (of a pronoun or pronominal reference) indefinite, as French on “one.”


Grammar. an impersonal verb or pronoun.

Origin of impersonal

From the Late Latin word impersōnālis, dating back to 1510–20. See im-2, personal
Related formsim·per·son·al·ly, adverbsu·per·im·per·son·al, adjectivesu·per·im·per·son·al·ly, adverb Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for impersonal

Contemporary Examples of impersonal

  • I think that history is certainly made by some impersonal forces, on occasion.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Napoleon Was a Dynamite Dictator

    J.P. O’Malley

    November 7, 2014

  • In other words, markets were impersonal, but that was good, because sometimes personal ties were cruel and oppressive.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Why Your Waiter Hates You

    Jedediah Purdy

    October 26, 2014

  • But over the 20th century, they evolved into something more mechanical and impersonal.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Font of Invention

    September 18, 2014

  • Many found this to echo a Stepford Wife mentality of women: Women like stories and language, not impersonal, cold, manly numbers!

  • Staff members can be rough and impersonal at times, particularly in high-stress areas like emergency rooms.

Historical Examples of impersonal

  • He repeated this in a voice of impersonal courtesy, and went on to the next group.

  • Beautiful she had seemed to him before, but beautiful with a sort of impersonal perfection.

    The Avenger

    E. Phillips Oppenheim

  • For the difference between the personal and impersonal was not marked to him as to ourselves.

  • That third party or common nature is not social; it is impersonal; is God.

    Essays, First Series

    Ralph Waldo Emerson

  • She was calm and impersonal during these interviews, and he tried to be so.

    Fair Harbor

    Joseph Crosby Lincoln

British Dictionary definitions for impersonal



without reference to any individual person; objectivean impersonal assessment
devoid of human warmth or sympathy; coldan impersonal manner
not having human characteristicsan impersonal God
grammar (of a verb) having no logical subject. Usually in English the pronoun it is used in such cases as a grammatical subject, as for example in It is raining
grammar (of a pronoun) not denoting a person
Derived Formsimpersonality, nounimpersonally, 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

Word Origin and History for impersonal

mid-15c., a grammatical term, from Late Latin impersonalis, from assimilated form of in- "not, opposite of" (see in- (1)) + personalis "personal" (see personal). Sense of "not connected with any person" is from 1620s; that of "not endowed with personality" is from 1842. Related: impersonally.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper