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Eminent vs. Imminent

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English has many pitfalls for beginning and experienced writers alike, not the least of which is the presence of homophones. Homophones are words that are pronounced the same or similarly, but mean different things. Homophones that share both a common pronunciation and a grammatical function compound writers’ frustrations. Imminent and eminent are two such homophones—they are both adjectives, and their pronunciations are usually indistinguishable in spoken language. To make matters even worse, a third adjective—immanent—is yet another homophone for these words. If you aren’t sure whether you mean eminent or imminent, or even immanent, you probably aren’t alone.

Origin:

The word imminent originated from late Middle English: from Latin imminent- ‘overhanging, impending’, from the verb imminere, from in- ‘upon, towards’ + minere ‘to project’. The word eminent originated from late Middle English: from Latin eminent- ‘jutting, projecting’, from the verb eminere.

Eminent as adjective:

Imminent is used as an adjective in English language where it means something that is about to happen.

They were in imminent danger of being swept away.

Eminent as adjective:

Eminent is used as an adjective to describe a person who is famous and respected within a particular sphere.

One of the world's most eminent statisticians was in the party.

Eminent is also used to describe a positive quality which is present to a notable degree.

The book's scholarship and eminent readability is very prominent.

Examples:

For the first time this year, balloters must weigh the fate of two eminent stars, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. [New York Times]

Even under these limitations it is only 4 to 1, on the average, against each child of an eminent son of a judge becoming a distinguished man. [Hereditary Genius, Francis Galton]

The authorities have studied all the available intelligence and “the conclusion overall is that there’s no concrete evidence of imminent attacks in Germany.” [Bloomberg]

 

WSJ: Blockbuster Bankruptcy Filing Imminent [Headline, Home Media Magazine]

Imminent or eminent:

Eminent and imminent are all adjectives that sound the same when spoken aloud. Eminent is a synonym of distinguished/esteemed.  Imminent is a synonym of impending. By thinking about the unique features of each word’s spelling, you can link them to their meanings in your mind. Homophones can be confusing, especially when three of them share a grammatical function. You can always check this site when you are faced with confusing words. Eminent begins with the same letter as its synonym esteemed. By remembering that both of these words begin with E, you can mentally link eminent with its meaning.

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"Eminent vs. Imminent." Grammar.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2017. Web. 22 Nov. 2017. <http://www.grammar.com/eminent_vs._imminent>.

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