Word of the Day – Importunate

Word of the Day : May 11, 2021


adjective im-POR-chuh-nut


1 : troublesomely urgent : overly persistent in request or demand

2 : troublesome

Did you know?

Importunate has been part of the English language since the 16th century, and the synonymous importune arrived even earlier, in the 15th century. The seemingly superfluous inclusion of the suffix -ate in importunate is a bit mysterious; one theory is that English speakers modeled the adjective after words like obstinateImportune and importunate come from Latin importunus. The prefix im- means “not,” and importunus can be contrasted with Latin opportunus, which shares its meaning with and is the ancestor of our opportune, meaning “suitable or timely.” The connection is obscure now, but opportunus itself harks back to the Latin phrase ob portum, meaning “[coming] to harbor.” Importune, and later importunate, once meant “inopportune, untimely,” but that sense is now obsolete.


“It seems apt that in the play’s first scene, set at 6 a.m. in Lagos, Nigeria, an importunate young customer asks the barber he’s so rudely awakened to give him an ‘aerodynamic’ cut.” — Ben Brantley, The New York Times, 4 Dec. 2019

“But when I spoke to Nadella he allowed that when you see people in their homes, with their noisy children and importunate pets, struggling to stay focussed and upbeat, ‘you have a different kind of empathy for your co-workers.'” — John Seabrook, The New Yorker, 1 Feb. 2021