impuissance

When faced with a situation when you need to act, sometimes you freeze. That feeling is called impuissance, when you’re unable to make a move because you feel like you have no power.

Thinking about world hunger, nuclear war, climate change, and vocabulary may inspire feelings of despair, like there’s nothing to be done and you might as well give up. Bless the French, because they came up with a single word that means exactly that: impuissance. It literally means “not powerful,” and feeling powerless is the key ingredient in impuissance. It’s tricky to pronounce, but imagine you’re in France and try it this way: im-PWIS-since. You’ll feel more powerful in no time.

Definitions of impuissance
  1. noun
    powerlessness revealed by an inability to act
    synonyms: helplessness, weakness
    see moresee less
    type of:
    impotence, impotency, powerlessness
    the quality of lacking strength or power; being weak and feeble
Word Family
EDITOR’S CHOICE

Test prep from the experts

Boost your test score with programs developed by Vocabulary.com’s experts.

  • Proven methods: Learn faster, remember longer with our scientific approach.
  • Personalized plan: We customize your experience to maximize your learning.
  • Strategic studying: Focus on the words that are most crucial for success.

SAT/PSAT

$29.95
  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 8 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week

TOEFL

$29.95
  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 10 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week

ACT

$29.95
  • Number of words: 700+
  • Duration: 10 weeks
  • Time: 1 hour / week