1. not potent; lacking power or ability.
  2. utterly unable (to do something).
  3. without force or effectiveness.
  4. lacking bodily strength or physically helpless.
  5. (of a male) unable to attain or sustain a penile erection.
  6. (especially of a male) sterile.
  7. Obsolete. without restraint.


  1. an impotent person: therapy for sexual impotents.


  1. (when postpositive, often takes an infinitive) lacking sufficient strength; powerless
  2. (esp of males) unable to perform sexual intercourseSee erectile impotence
  3. obsolete lacking self-control; unrestrained

late 14c., “physically weak, enfeebled, crippled,” from Old French impotent “powerless, weak, incapable,” from Latin imponentem (nominative impotens) “lacking control, powerless,” from assimilated form of in- “not, opposite of” (see in- (1)) + ponentem (nominative potens) “potent” (see potent).

Meaning “having no power to accomplish anything” is from mid-15c.; that of “completely lacking in sexual power” (of males) is from mid-15c. Middle English also had a native term for this: Cunt-beaten (mid-15c.). The figurative sense in Latin was “without self-control, headstrong, violent.” Related: Impotently.


  1. Incapable of sexual intercourse, often because of an inability to achieve or sustain an erection.
  2. Sterile. Used of males.

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