Do you know the difference between “imminent” and “eminent”? These words sound similar when spoken, but you won’t want to mix them up in your writing. Check out our guide below to find out how they work.
Imminent (Happening Soon)
“Imminent” is an adjective that means “happening very soon”:
The clouds suggest a storm is imminent.
There is a real danger of imminent violence.
The adverbial form of this word, meanwhile, is “imminently.” And, like “imminent,” we use this word when something is happening soon:
The report is due imminently.
In all cases, then, “imminent” will refer to something happening soon.
Eminent (Important or Notable)
Also an adjective, “eminent” means “famous,” “important,” or “respected”:
He was an eminent figure in the theatrical world.
As an eminent scholar, she commanded great respect.
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More rarely, it can mean “present to a notable degree” for a positive quality:
The eminent readability of the book is its great strength.
The adverbial form of this word, “eminently,” means “very and obviously”:
The book is eminently readable from start to finish.
There is a subtle difference here (i.e., “eminently” does not imply fame or respectability). This is because these words come from an Old French word meaning “prominent.” And “prominent” can refer to importance (i.e., eminence) or standing out (i.e., to be “eminently” some quality).
Summary: Imminent or Eminent?
While these words sound similar, they have very different meanings:
Imminent means “happening very soon.”
Eminent typically means “famous,” “important,” or “respected.”
Likewise, with “imminently” and “eminently,” there is a key difference:
Imminently means “occurring in a way that will happen very soon.”
Eminently means “very and obviously some quality.”
If you struggle to tell these spellings apart, remember that “imminent” and “imminently” start with the same three letters as “immediate,” since something imminent will happen in the immediate future.
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