Etymology
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impetus (n.)

early 15c., impetous "rapid movement, rush;" 1640s, with modern spelling, "force with which a body moves, driving force," from Latin impetus "an attack, assault; rapid motion; an impulse; violence, vigor, force;" figuratively "ardor, passion," from impetere "to attack," from assimilated form of in- "into, in, on, upon" (from PIE root *en "in") + petere "aim for, rush at" (from PIE root *pet- "to rush, to fly").

updated on February 10, 2018

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Definitions of impetus from WordNet

impetus (n.)
a force that moves something along;
Synonyms: drift / impulsion
impetus (n.)
the act of applying force suddenly;
Synonyms: impulse / impulsion
Etymologies are not definitions. From wordnet.princeton.edu, not affiliated with etymonline.