• synonyms


[im-puh-tuh ns]
  1. the condition or quality of being impotent; weakness.
  2. chronic inability to attain or sustain an erection for the performance of a sexual act.
  3. sterility, especially in the male.
  4. Obsolete. lack of self-restraint.
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Also im·po·ten·cy, im·po·tent·ness.

Origin of impotence

1375–1425; late Middle English, variant (see -ence) of impotencie < Latin impotentia want of self-control, weakness. See im-2, potency
Can be confusedimpetus impotence sterilityimportance impotence (see synonym study at importance)impotence sterility sterilized
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for impotency

Historical Examples

  • Slavery left its blight of impotency and profligacy upon them.

    The American Missionary -- Volume 38, No. 01, January, 1884


  • Sacred as they were they still mocked him with their impotency to stay the hand of death.

    Omega, the Man

    Lowell Howard Morrow

  • It would only show its impotency, or, what is more, its own corruption.

  • So we are powerless, and by this impotency we are smitten with grief.'

  • The foregoing measures for sterility are also suitable in cases of impotency.

    Fruits of Philosophy

    Charles Knowlton

Word Origin and History for impotency



early 15c., "physical weakness," also "poverty," from Middle French impotence "weakness," from Latin impotentia "lack of control or power," from impotentem (nominative impotens); see impotent. In reference to a want of (male) sexual potency, from c.1500. The figurative senses of the word in Latin were "violence, fury, unbridled passion." Related: Impotency.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

impotency in Medicine


  1. The quality or condition of being impotent.
  2. erectile dysfunction
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The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.