Definition of impotent in US English:



  • 1Unable to take effective action; helpless or powerless.

    ‘he was seized with an impotent anger’
    • ‘The anger flared in both cheeks, burning his face with impotent rage.’
    • ‘Thus, they are impotent, powerless to confront the current regime.’
    • ‘We all regularly give money to relief agencies and television appeals such as Comic Relief, but the sheer enormity of the statistics and the feeling that aid campaigns only provide short-term aid leave us feeling impotent.’
    • ‘They feel impotent, seeing the effects of abuse lasting indefinitely while paedophiles receive lenient treatment.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘They found that, far from being the impotent rubber-stamp portrayed by earlier historians, the parliament of the 15th and 16th centuries was one of the most powerful bodies of its type in the world.’
    • ‘The more the mother tried to make her daughter go to school, the more the daughter refused, and the more the mother felt helpless and impotent.’
    • ‘I felt an impotent anger, but also a curiosity, rise in my chest.’
    • ‘Even though I have lots of people who hang on my every word and would do anything I told them to, I feel impotent and helpless.’
    • ‘Parents are either unable or unwilling to do anything, teachers have their hands tied, the police are impotent and the Judiciary Services have let us down.’
    • ‘I think I actually saw her smirk at my impotent anger.’
    • ‘If the world's most respected institution of international governance is rendered impotent by accusations as distorted and exaggerated as these, we should all fear the consequences.’
    • ‘Watching her thrown into this heartbreaking cycle of events made us feel so small, so impotent, so powerless.’
    • ‘They acted as if they were impotent bystanders rather than elected officials charged by those who put them in office with maintaining civil order and ensuring the public's safety.’
    • ‘He's just lashing out in impotent frustration at the thought of neo-liberal policies being rejected yet again (as they have been in every election since 1990).’
    • ‘He couldn't stand feeling so impotent, so powerless.’
    • ‘The government fears that the union bureaucracy cannot indefinitely contain the mounting anger of public-sector workers with bombast and impotent protests.’
    • ‘However, when the dishes had been washed, the house grown quiet, and my light shut off, I tossed and turned in impotent fury at this, the latest, in forty years of such tirades from my mother.’
    powerless, ineffective, ineffectual, inadequate, weak, useless, worthless, vain, futile, unavailing, unsuccessful, profitless, fruitless
    weak, powerless, ineffective, lame, feeble, effete
    View synonyms
  • 2(of a man) abnormally unable to achieve a sexual erection.

    • ‘First, a man is ‘conclusively presumed’ to be the father of a child if he is both married to and cohabiting with the mother, as long as he is not sterile or impotent.’
    • ‘Individuals, particularly men, on SSRIs may stop taking the drug because they may have greater difficulty achieving orgasm and/or become impotent.’
    • ‘In cases where the husband is impotent but not sterile, the sperm could easily be his, in which case the test tube child would have the same genetic make-up as a naturally conceived child.’
    • ‘One night, she makes a pass at him, and though he tries to respond, he is impotent.’
    • ‘My husband and I have been married for two months but haven't had sex because he's impotent.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Michael has other problems as well: his job involves experiments with animals, he's hung up on his father, he's impotent.’
    • ‘It reportedly works for up to 70 percent of impotent men, a home run for the drug's manufacturer and a boon for the sex lives of couples across the nation.’
    • ‘Korean researchers had 45 impotent men take either 900 mg of Korean red ginseng or a placebo three times daily.’
    • ‘This tenet of common law states that unless a man can prove that he is sterile, impotent, or away from home at the time of conception, he is the legal father of any child born to his wife during their marriage.’
    • ‘He's not impotent or physically handicapped, he just isn't very interested and says there is more to a relationship than sex.’
    • ‘According to the findings of this study, about 120,000 U.K. men are impotent because of smoking.’
    • ‘Beer mats and posters persuading impotent men to seek medical help are to be placed in dozens of Scottish pubs.’
    • ‘In addition, 5 percent of patients are impotent after the procedure, and 60 percent have retrograde ejaculation.’
    • ‘Men who fail to have an erection on demand believe they are impotent and incapable of having sex.’
    • ‘The drugs he is on works by suppressing the male hormones which stimulate the growth of prostate cancer, he says - and a side effect is that they make him impotent.’
    • ‘These witches had used poisons to kill people or make them ill, often rendering men impotent and women sterile.’
    • ‘Perhaps one of the most interesting and difficult elements of impotence cases is trying to answer how the trial and its publicity affected the public reputation of the allegedly impotent man.’
    • ‘He is impotent and unable to satisfy his estranged wife.’
    • ‘Treatment of impotence leads to a major improvement in the quality of life for both the impotent male and his partner (s).’
    1. 2.1 (of a male animal) unable to copulate.


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