Choose Your Words between Similar Words : eminent vs. imminent vs. immanent. Caught between words? Make the right choice.
Choose between: eminent vs. imminent vs. immanent
No, it’s not the name of the latest rapper from Detroit, but it could describe one — eminent describes anyone who’s famous. Imminent refers to something about to happen. And anything immanent (with an “a” in there) is inherent, like that good attitude you were born with.
Someone who’s eminent is totally rocking out. This eminent person is distinguished, grand, soaring high above the rest of us. In legalese, eminent domain is when the government takes over private property for public use. Here are examples of both:
“Johnson, Dr. Samuel: An eminent English essayist, poet, and lexicographer.” (James Baldwin)
“Eminent domain laws generally allow for the confiscation of private property if taking it is judged to serve a larger public good.” ( New York Times)
Imminent describes something that’s about to happen, and it’s not always good. It can be positive, like a talented musician’s imminent rise to stardom, but it’s often bad, like a sick person’s imminent death, or a city’s imminent bankruptcy:
“One official said that unless the city ‘hit the jackpot,’ bankruptcy was imminent.” (New York Times)
“At one point, some 750,000 Somalis had faced imminent starvation.” (Scientific American)
The less common word, immanent, often sneaks in where it doesn’t belong. Immanent comes from the Latin immanens for “to remain in.” It refers to a natural part of an organism or organization. When people talk about God as immanent, it means something closer to “omnipresent,” as opposed to transcendent for “unknowable.” It’s a formal word, popular with philosophers and religious people:
“God is in all; He is over all; He is both immanent and transcendent. ” (Kaufmann Kohler)
“But the naturalist sees the creative energy immanent in matter.” (John Burroughs)
To keep them straight, remember that an eminent person is successful, like that rapper Eminem. Something imminent is going to happen in a minute. And immanent (with an “a”) is all in your head.
Anyone highly regarded or prominent is eminent. Eminent people are very successful at their jobs. If you’ve heard of Neil deGrasse Tyson, it’s probably because he’s an eminent astrophysicist. Continue reading…
Something immanent is inherent in and spread throughout something else — it’s innate, intrinsic and inborn. Philosophers might debate about whether generosity is an immanent trait or something that people are taught. Continue reading…
Something that is imminent is just about to happen: if you light a firecracker and then stick it down your pants, a very bad situation is imminent. Continue reading…