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imminent

Printable Version Pronunciation: im-ê-nênt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Impending, about to occur, just around the corner, in the offing.

Notes: Today's Good Word is often confused with three (yes, three, count 'em, 3!) similarly spelled homophones, eminent, immanent, and emanent. Let's all be sure to keep them in their places. Eminent means "outstanding, towering above others", as an eminent linguist or eminent businessman. Immanent (with an A instead of an I) means "inherent, indwelling", as immanent rather than externally enforced goodness. Emanant, with two As, is rarely used these days but remains fair game. It means "issuing from some source", as the emanant goodness of the heart or an emanant cloud on the horizon.

In Play: Most often we hear of imminent danger or destruction: "The suspense in the Indiana Jones series is maintained by constant danger that makes his death seem ever imminent." Let's not let that misguide us into thinking good things cannot be imminent: "Dawn Bright makes it through life thinking that success is always imminent, just a step or two away."

Word History: Today's Good Word followed the hordes of words taken by English from Latin via French. It originates in Latin imminen(t)s "overhanging". This Latin word is the present participle of imminere "to hang over", comprising in "in" + -minere "to jut out, impend, threaten". (The hyphen before this verb indicates that it always occurs with a prefix.) This is the same root that emerged in Latin mentum "chin" and German Mund "mouth". The N in this word must have been a Fickle N because it doesn't show up in English mouth from the same source. Mount and mountain go back to the same original root, but so does amount. It came from Old French amonter "to ascend". The French verb was derived from amont "upwards", the historical result of the Latin phrase ad montem "up the hill". (If you think a note of gratitude to Doug Shulek-Miller for suggesting today's Good Word is imminent, you're right—thank you, Doug. )

Dr. Goodword, alphaDictionary.com

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