Imminent vs. Eminent: A Difference That Stands Out

Would you refer to someone as imminent or eminent? Only one vowel and one “m” separate eminent and imminent, but despite these similarities, the words are unrelated.

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The Difference Between Eminent and Imminent

Imminent and eminent are pronounced similarly but have unrelated meanings, origins and spellings.

  • eminent (eh-muh-nehnt)- someone who is famous or successful

  • imminent (ih-muh-nehnt) - about or bound to happen

Using Imminent in a Sentence

Imminent is an adjective that means “about to happen,” “impending” or “upcoming.” It is derived from the Latin words in (towards) and minere (to project).

  • My parent’s arrival is imminent.

  • I’m preparing for my imminent retirement.

  • The newscaster said the hurricane would result in imminent disaster.

Meaning and Usage of Eminent

Eminent is defined as “a successful or famous person.” The word comes from the Old French éminent and the Latin term eminentem, which means “prominent” or “projecting.”

  • He is eminent as a businessman.

  • The eminent judge entered the courtroom.

  • The meeting included many eminent personalities including scientists.

What About Immanent?

The adjective immanent is pronounced the same way as imminent, so they are sometimes mistaken for one another. Immanent means “existing or operating within” or “innate.” In religious contexts it means “transcendent” and in philosophy, it means “taking place within the mind.”

  • The priest spoke of God’s immanent grace.

  • Love is immanent in human nature.

  • Her beauty was immanent.

Tricks to Remember the Difference

Eminent, imminent and immanent are all separate words. You can use tricks to remember each meaning and spelling.

  • Eminent begins with em-, and eminent people built empires.
  • Imminent begins with imm- as does immediate. Both have to do with time and something approaching quickly.
  • Immanent also begins with imm- and is primarily used in religious and philosophical contexts. Although immanent means something inherent, it is often used in religious contexts to refer to something transcendent and beyond the limit, so you can associate this with immense.
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Prepare for Imminent Spelling Lessons

Sometimes changing the initial vowel of a word makes all the difference. Take elicit and illicit for example. Another example of changing the vowel to change the meaning is enquire vs. inquire.