Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adjective Lacking personality; not being a person.
  • adjective Showing no emotion or personality.
  • adjective Having no personal reference or connection.
  • adjective Not responsive to or expressive of human personalities.
  • adjective Of, relating to, or being a verb that expresses the action of an unspecified subject, as in methinks, “it seems to me”; Latin pluit, “it rains”; or, with an expletive subject, it snowed.
  • adjective Indefinite. Used of pronouns.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • Not personal, Not existing or manifested as a person; having no conscious individuality; not endued with personality.
  • Not relating to a person, or to any particular person or persons; having no personal reference; not bearing the stamp of any particular personality: as, an impersonal remark.
  • In grammar, said of a verb not used with a personal subject, or employed to express action without specification of an actor, and hence used only in the third person, and either without a subject expressed, or with only the indefinite it (French il, German es, etc.): thus, Latin me tædet, French il m'ennuie, German es urgert mich, it irks me; or German mich dunkt, methinks —that is. (to) me (it) seems (methinks is nearly the sole relic left in English of the pure impersonal construction without subject); or it rains that is. rain is going on; or Latin pugnatur, it is fought —that is, fighting is going on. In many quasi-impersonal phrases the it is a grammatical subject, anticipating a logical subject that comes later: thus, it hurts one to fall —that is, falling hurts one; and so on.
  • noun That which wants personality; an impersonal verb.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • adjective Not personal; not representing a person; not having personality.
  • adjective (Gram.) a verb used with an indeterminate subject, commonly, in English, with the impersonal pronoun it; as, it rains; it snows; methinks (it seems to me). Many verbs which are not strictly impersonal are often used impersonally; as, it goes well with him.
  • noun (Gram.) That which wants personality

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • adjective Not personal; not representing a person; not having personality.
  • adjective Lacking warmth or emotion; cold.
  • adjective grammar, of a verb or other word Not having a subject, or having a third person pronoun without an antecedent.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adjective having no personal preference
  • adjective not relating to or responsive to individual persons

Etymologies

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From French impersonnel, from Latin impersonalis, from Latin im- ("not") + personalis ("personal").

Examples

  • That is what he calls the impersonal force of destruction that paints "destroy" (chai) on buildings without a public discussion.

    In China, the Shock of the New

  • Each of these changes increases the gains from specialization and exchange; they also create mechanisms that underpin impersonal exchange.

    Juntas vs. Open Societies, Arnold Kling | EconLog | Library of Economics and Liberty

  • The present article shall focus on a main organizational challenge faced by the two companies, the facilitation of long-term impersonal cooperation between active entrepreneurs and passive investors.

    Harris on the First Corporations

  • So neat, so clean, so impersonal is exactly the relationship of the majority of readers here to the soldiers.

    Matthew Yglesias » Counterinsurgency by Air

  • The present article shall focus on a main organizational challenge faced by the two companies, the facilitation of long-term impersonal cooperation between active entrepreneurs and passive investors.

    Legal History Blog

  • Latin to add weight to the authority of one’s opinion, one might (the impersonal is also helpful for establishing an academic tone) suggest that “at” used as a sentential post-fix is a locative particle, which helps distinguish the use of “where” from alternative directional uses such as “Where is he going TO?” or “Where is she coming FROM?”, and which provides parallelism to those constructions.

    Where are you (at)? « Motivated Grammar

  • If somehow the metrics here were impersonal, that is, they had some sort of control to make them reasonably objective, that would garner far less opposition, methinks.

    Matthew Yglesias » Performance Bonuses

  • This was an affirmation that all these divine realities what we would refer to as impersonal "forces of nature" were in fact united in a single "being" that encompassed all of them and of whom all of them were an expression.

    From The Archives: God is a Mystery, not an Explanation

  • Nominalisations allow us the option of being more abstract and impersonal, which is why they are useful in academic writing.

    On nominalisations

  • Nominalisations allow us the option of being more abstract and impersonal, which is why they are useful in academic writing.

    Archive 2008-08-01

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