Word Confusion: Eminent vs Immanent vs Imminent

Posted April 29, 2013 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Revised as of 17 February 2018

The confusion is most common between eminent and imminent; I’m throwing immanent in simply because it is so close to imminent.

Different images leap to mind when I encounter each of these words:

eminent is a large EM swollen and beaming away

immanent‘s A is rooted, permanent

imminent is an IM that looms over us as though it were about to topple over — it’s gloom-and-doom time!

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

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Eminent Immanent Imminent
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Merriam-Webster; Dictionary.com: eminent, immanent, imminent

“George Washington” by Gilbert Stuart is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

George Washington was an eminent commander-in-chief and president.

“Altar Boy with Incense” courtesy of The Guardian.

Incense is an immanent part of Mass for me.

“The Final Countdown” courtesy of Angry Web

…is an imminent danger.

Part of Grammar:
Adjective; Noun phrase 1 Adjective Adjective
[Of a person] Famous and respected within a particular sphere or profession

Outstanding, famous

Used to emphasize the presence of a positive quality



Prominent, projecting, protruding

Noun phrase:
[Eminent domain] Right of a government to take private property for public use by virtue of the superior dominion of the sovereign power over all lands within its jurisdiction

Often used in religious or philosophical contexts


Existing, remaining, or operating within

  • Indwelling
  • Inherent

[Philosophy; of a mental act] Taking place within the mind of the subject and having no effect outside of it

[Theology; of the Deity] Indwelling the universe, time, etc.

Present as a natural and permanent part of something

About to happen

  • likely to occur at any moment
  • Impending


  • Leaning forward

[Archaic] Overhanging, impending

He is an eminent authority in his field.

This guitar has an eminent suitability for recording studio work.

He was one of the world’s most eminent artists.

This book was written by an eminent authority on folk art.

In all eminent fairness, you did start it.

…o’ those eminent, majestic peaks…

You, young lady, are displaying eminent good sense.

Steve Martin played a character in Roxanne with quite the eminent nose.

Noun phrase:
The city is seizing his property through eminent domain.

He believed in the immanent unity of nature taught by the Hindus.

The protection of liberties is immanent in constitutional arrangements.

He was an immanent God.

A belief in God’s immanence holds that God is present in all of creation, while remaining distinct from it.

People brushed aside the fact that war was imminent.

They were in imminent danger of being swept away.

They say that a ceasefire is imminent.

For a man in imminent danger of losing his job, he appeared quite unruffled.

Her remarks were intended to scotch rumors of an imminent election date.

Adjective: noneminent, quasi-eminent, uneminent
Adverb: eminently, quasi-eminently
Noun: eminence
Adjective: nonimmanent
Adverb: immanently
Noun: immanence, immanency, immanentism, immanentist, nonimmanence, nonimmanency
Adjective: unimminent
Adverb: imminently
Noun: imminence, imminentness
History of the Word:
Late Middle English from the Latin eminent- meaning jutting, projecting, and is from the verb eminere.

1 1783

Mid-16th century from the late Latin immanent- meaning remaining within and is from in- (in) + manere (remain). Late Middle English from the Latin imminent- meaning overhanging, impending, from the verb imminere, from in- (upon, toward) + minere (to project).

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves? Also, please note that I try to be as accurate as I can, but mistakes happen or I miss something. Email me if you find errors, so I can fix them…and we’ll all benefit!

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Pinterest Photo Credits

A ginseng root, courtesy of © Harding’s Wild Mountain Herbs 2009, becomes the A in immanent while Looks by Alessandro Caproni under the CC BY 2.0 license, via VisualHunt, stares up at what is imminent.

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