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noun, plural im·pe·tus·es.
  1. a moving force; impulse; stimulus: The grant for building the opera house gave impetus to the city's cultural life.
  2. (broadly) the momentum of a moving body, especially with reference to the cause of motion.
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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 confusedimpetus impotence sterility

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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for impetus

motivation, incentive, catalyst, impulse, momentum, stimulant, urge, incitement, power, spur, energy, goad, pressure, push, incitation, impulsion

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British Dictionary definitions for impetus


noun plural -tuses
  1. an impelling movement or force; incentive or impulse; stimulus
  2. physics the force that sets a body in motion or that tends to resist changes in a body's motion
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Word Origin for impetus

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

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.)).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper