Share this entry

impotent Syllabification: im·po·tent
Pronunciation: /ˈimpətnt/

Definition of impotent in English:


1Unable to take effective action; helpless or powerless: he was seized with an impotent anger
More example sentences
  • Yet it happened, and he felt helpless, powerless, and impotent.
  • The end result is that we not only feel frightened - we often feel unable to respond, and feel powerless and impotent as individuals.
  • Thus, they are impotent, powerless to confront the current regime.
powerless, ineffective, ineffectual, inadequate, weak, feeble, useless, worthless, futile
literary impuissant
unable, incapable, powerless, helpless
2(Of a man) abnormally unable to achieve a sexual erection.
Example sentences
  • He is impotent and unable to satisfy his estranged wife.
  • Rumours of his extraordinary sexual powers spread and multiplied, though they were probably nonsense - there seems more evidence, indeed, to suggest that he was sexually impotent.
  • He's not impotent or physically handicapped, he just isn't very interested and says there is more to a relationship than sex.
2.1(Of a male animal) unable to copulate.


Late Middle English: via Old French from Latin impotent- 'powerless', from in- 'not' + potent- (see potent1).



Example sentences
  • But only one in 10 men suffering from impotence feel confident enough to ask their GP for advice.
  • What unites people on both sides is a feeling of frustrated impotence - what can you really do about it, in either case?
  • The inspiration for this piece, he says, grew out of a feeling of impotence.


Example sentences
  • However, scientific studies have shown that smoking reduces mental and physical abilities and that it can lead to impotency in men, the volume says.
  • Their silence for more than 2 months, exhibits their cowardice and impotency to rise to the occasion and come to the rescue of their community.
  • You can convince yourself that you are helping him and thus avoid the feeling of impotency.


Pronunciation: /ˈimpəd(ə)n(t)lē/
Example sentences
  • ‘We raged impotently, wondering why this has happened to us, asking the usual questions of God and the universe,’ he writes.
  • The state watches impotently as its culture, beamed in from the coasts, becomes coarser and more offensive by the year.
  • In fantasy literature the availability of power is in inverse proportion to the daily lives of a typical teenager, hemmed in by school and family and impotently yearning for autonomy.

Words that rhyme with impotent

combatant • omnipotent

Definition of impotent in:

Share this entry


What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.

Get more from Oxford Dictionaries

Subscribe to remove ads and access premium resources

Word of the day whippersnapper
Pronunciation: ˈ(h)wipərˌsnapər
a young, inexperienced person considered presumptuous or overconfident...