early 15c., "physical weakness," also "poverty," from Old French impotence "weakness" (13c.), from Latin impotentia "lack of control or power," from impotentem "lacking control, powerless" (see impotent). In reference to a complete want of (male) sexual potency, from c. 1500. The figurative senses of the word in Latin were "violence, fury, unbridled passion," via the notion of "want of self-restraining power," and these sometimes were used in English. Related: Impotency.