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SAT vocabulary: impious

Man doll with impious look on his face
I am impious man. Make that MR. Impious Man.

What does impious mean? Read below for the definition.

Quick vocab quiz for the word impious

First, before you read about the word impious, try this quick vocab quiz:

impious most nearly means

(A) relating to beauty
(B) scholarly
(C) irreverent
(D) knowledgeable
(E) incorrect

Write your answer down, or just store it in that razor-sharp mind of yours. (If you can’t wait, the answer is below.)

Now let’s learn about the word impious.

Part of Speech of impious

impious is an ADJECTIVE.

Pronunciation of impious

Here’s how to pronounce impious:

IPA: /ˈɪm.pi.əs/

Glossary-style: [IHM-pee-uhs]

Definition of impious

impious means: not pious or not adhering to religious principles or ethics. rude or disrespectful.

Explain more about impious, please

impious basically means not pious. And pious basically means being a good (often religious) person. In other words, a pious person does what he’s supposed to do according to what his religion taught him, while an impious person does not. So, if someone is impious, then he doesn’t follow the rules of his religion. By extension, impious can also mean lacking respect, not being dutiful, etc.

On a related note, it’s interesting that the word impious looks like it could be related to the word imp, which is a little devil or mischievous child, but it’s not. The adjective form of imp is impish, not impious. (Of course, using a mnemonic, such as “an imp would be impious” could help you remember this word.)

Example of impious

Here’s the word impious used in a sentence:

The young student loved little more than being impious in order to get a reaction from his easily-irritated teacher.

If you’ve read this far, you’re a great student and will learn vocabulary quickly. You may now check your answer.

Answer to the quick vocab quiz

Is the word impious related to the word imp?

When I first heard (and pondered) the word impious, I assumed that it was derived from word imp, meaning little devil or mischievous child. I made this assumption simply because of the pronunciation of impious: /ˈɪm.pi.əs/. I thought that if an imp is a naughty child solemnly sworn to be up to no good, then it stood to reason, at least for me, that the adjective used to describe such a child would be “impious”. Of course, there’s the word impish, but perhaps that was sub-standard version of the more proper impious.

Some time later I learned the word pious (meaning upright, moral, ethical, or adhering to religious practices or beliefs) and realized that perhaps impious derived not from imp but from pious. And to add another wrinkle, at some point, I heard an alternate pronunciation of the word, /ɪm.ˈpaɪ.əs/, which made me think that perhaps I’d been confused when I was younger.

So to the dictionary I went to look up the etymology.

Turns out that in fact the two words, related though they may seem, come to us from two different sources. impious simply means “not pious”–“im” generally means “not” or “in”, and in this case, it means “not”. If you’re curious, pious comes from the Latin pius, which means devout or kind. So that makes sense.

More interestingly, to me at least, is the word imp. imp derives ultimately from the Greek emphuein, which means implant. What’s the connection? It appears to be something like this: to create a new plant, a shoot or sapling was used, which was a kind of implant. From this usage came the idea of something young and new. And from “young and new” came the idea of child. But I just have to opine: that the sense evolved from “child” to “child of the Devil” reflects poorly on the opinions of children at the time. I think children are miracles.

By Erin Billy

Founder of TestMagic, Inc. in San Francisco, USA.

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