Eminent vs Imminent? Which One Is The Correct One To Use?


eminent vs imminent

Most people when they write and speak try to do it properly, in a way that the message they are trying to put out is understood and not missed. But there are many words that make that difficult and they require some forethought and intention to be used correctly. In this article, we will discuss the words “eminent” and “imminent”, since they are a pair that could be confusing for some people.

We use “eminent” should be used when speaking of a famous person that is respected in a certain sphere. Now, the word “imminent” should be used to communicate the urgency of something that is about to happen.

There is more to the different uses both these words have and here we will make sure to cover them in detail. Keep reading for more.

eminent word on dictionary

Definition And Origin of The Word “Eminent”

The word “eminent” first appeared in the 1800’s, and it was still connected to its root word in Latin in many instances and despite the fact that it is a common word to use it was more used when it first appeared than in recent times.

“Eminent” comes from the Latin word “eminere”, that later was taken by Middle English to make the spelling of the word as we know it now “eminent”, however when it first appeared it meant “jutting” or “projecting”.

It is important to note that the root of “eminent”, the word “eminere” was a verb, but the word as we know it and use it is now an adjective. This adjective holds the meaning of someone or something distinguished, a person notable to a certain degree, a person that is respectable and famous in their social circle.

The word “eminent” doesn’t have a verb form, but there is a noun variation that is derived from this word, “eminence”. The noun “eminence” is used to refer to someone of high rank, someone with a certain status that is in a position of superiority. Nowadays, using this word is expected when speaking to a person of nobility or a certain rank of importance. For example:

  • His eminence
  • Her eminence
  • His Grand Eminence
  • Her Grand Eminence

The adjective “eminent” is also used to accompany words when speaking to nobility, for example:

  • His Eminent Grace
  • Her Eminent Grace

Definition And Origin of The Word “Imminent”

The word “imminent” appeared around the same time as “eminent”, the 1800’s. However, the continuity and frequency of use of the word “imminent” has endured more than “eminent”. The word continues to be used in a multitude of scenarios and context whenever urgency comes to play.

The root of “imminent” is in the combination of the Latin “in” which meant “upon” or “towards”, and “minere”, “to project”. Initially, these were written and spelled separately but later they combined to form “imminere” that later changed to “imminent”. The meaning of the word used to be “overhanging” or “impending”, and in time when Middle English adopted the word “imminent” the meaning didn’t change, it was refined to mean “about to happen” which is how we know it and use it nowadays.

Just as the word “eminent” the word “imminent” also has a noun form, “imminence”. The difference is that the root of “imminent” was always an adjective and it continued to be that way with the exception of this variation in the noun form. Here are some examples of the noun form used in a sentence:

  • The imminence of her death could not be denied any longer.
  • The jury moved to offer their verdict with pressing imminence.
  • When it comes to war the biggest quality is the imminence of it all. Before you have an opportunity to analyze what went wrong it is already at your door, and it usually does not knock.

The word “imminent” also has an adverb form which is “imminently” and the meaning is the same as its root word, “very soon”. However, it has a slight difference from “imminent”, when we use the adverb form it adds speed to the event taking place, so we would use it when something will take place very, very soon.

How To Use “Eminent” In A Sentence

Now that we know the meaning and root of “eminent” we will go over how to use it when writing a sentence or speaking for that matter.

The first aspect to consider is what type of word “eminent” is, and the answer is an adjective. It is known that adjectives are used to describe, to assign qualities or properties, or assign unique identifying traits to people or things. So, when we use “eminent” in a sentence it will take the place of the adjective. We will use this adjective to indicate a superior talent or greatness from the person or the object we are speaking of.

Examples Of “Eminent” Used In Writing

  1. The most eminent professors were summoned for the seminar.
  2. She was an eminent pianist and singer. Every time she would have a concert people would line up for days to get tickets and you could hear them sign for blocks as they waited.
  3. A once eminent judge lost his reputation and got disbarred because he had been accepting bribes and kept many criminals out of jail.
  4. Her dream was to become an eminent scientist and win a Nobel Prize before the age of thirty. She had not been given a Nobel yet but she was already distinct in her field.
  5. A politician can be as eminent as they want but if they lack public acceptance and the support of their party they are not going to be elected.
  6. He was the most eminent historian in my town. If there was ever a dispute of a historic event he would be the one to set the record straight.
  7. Every graduate from that school was eminent by the time they joined our faculty. It was with good reason that they had the reputation of being the best in the country.
  8. It was his dream to be an eminent educator. That is why he always spent time planning for his classes and making sure students were never left behind.

imminent sign with neon letters

How To Use “Imminent” In A Sentence

The word “imminent” shares a common ground with “eminent”, it is also an adjective. So, when we use “imminent” we will make sure the word takes the place of the adjective.

We also need to consider when using this word the intention behind it, since it will mean that something is coming soon, or something is ready to take place, and it will usually be sooner rather than later.

Examples Of “Imminent” Used In Writing

  1. The child’s birth was imminent, it was clear her water had broken and you could hear her screams from miles away.
  2. After the recent events between France and England war was imminent. The Prime Minister called an emergency meeting in preparation for what was to come.
  3. They had been in a relationship for seven years, on and off, at this point, everyone assumed a proposal was imminent but instead they broke up.
  4. Her imminent success was inevitable, she received a letter from the President and was soon to be nominated for a prestigious award.
  5. The collapse of the government was imminent, people had been rioting for days and a coup was in sight.
  6. The times were changing and a new era was imminent. Women were going places never seen thought of for them and there was no stopping it.
  7. The verdict was imminent and no further evidence could be presented.
  8. The death of thousands of Jews was imminent the moment Hitler rose to power. Even now years after it all happened, no one sees how it could have been prevented.

A Word On “Eminent” And “Imminent”

Due to the resemblance between these words, partly on their pronunciation and a little on their shared Latin roots for a lot of English speakers, whether they are native to the language or not confusion is bound to happen. 

The shared root from the Latin word “minere” is what causes the issue, despite the distinct differences that both these words have in meaning. That is why spell checking and revising when using these words has some significance, if you were to use the wrong one it would modify your speech completely.

To make it more simple, just associate the meaning with the first letter on each word’s spelling. The one that starts with “e”, means grandeur, superiority, distinction. Now, when the spelling starts with the letter “i” we are speaking of a looming threat, something that is coming, right around the corner and can not be stopped. “Imminent” is used for things that are bound to happen that are usually, “matter of fact”.

frightened girl due to imminent danger

Conclusion

“Eminent” or “Imminent” which one is correct? The answer is clear, they are both correct given the appropriate context. Now, when you use these in a sentence you will know which one best fits the idea you are trying to put out and the correctness of your message will not be put to question.

Shawn Manaher

Shawn Manaher is the founder and CEO of The Content Authority. He's one part content manager, one part writing ninja organizer, and two parts leader of top content creators. You don't even want to know what he calls pancakes.

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