Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Impromptu

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is impromptu. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Impromptu means “made, done, or formed on or as if on the spur of the moment” or “composed or uttered without previous preparation.”

// When we got word of Caitlin’s good news, we threw an impromptu party to celebrate.

// He made an impromptu speech about honor and responsibility.

IMPROMPTU in Context

“After chatting about the history of the song [I Will Always Love You] and how it ended up in the 1992 film The Bodyguard with an iconic rendition by the late Whitney Houston, [Dolly] Parton and [Kelly] Clarkson gave an impromptu performance of the chorus complete with harmonies. As soon as they started singing, we could feel the tears welling up in our eyes.” — Julia Teti,, 23 Dec. 2022

Did You Know?

Impromptu most often describes things, such as speeches or gatherings, that are not prepared ahead of time but that instead happen spontaneously. An impromptu concert or photoshoot, for example, is conceived and executed in the moment. Impromptu was borrowed—spelling, meaning, and all—from French in the mid-18th century. The French had gotten the word from Latin, from the phrase in promptu, meaning “in readiness.” But the presence of prompt in there is no coincidence: both impromptu and prompt are ultimately derived from the Latin promere, meaning “to bring forth, take out.”

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