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See also: imp., Imp., and IMP



Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English impe, ympe, from Old English impa, impe (an imp, scion, graft, shoot; young tree), from Old English impian (to imp, graft), from Proto-Germanic *impōną, *impitōną (to graft) (> Old High German impfōn). Cognate with Danish ympe, German Impf, Swedish ymp.


imp (plural imps)

  1. (obsolete) A young shoot of a plant, tree etc. [9th–17th c.]
    • Sir Orfeo, 69:
      Þai sett hem doun al þre / Vnder a fair ympe-tre.
  2. (obsolete) A scion, offspring; a child. [15th–19th c.]
    • 1590, Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene I.3:
      And thou most dreaded impe of highest Ioue, / Faire Venus sonne, [...] come to mine ayde [...].
    • Fairfax
      The tender imp was weaned.
  3. A young or inferior devil; a malevolent supernatural creature, similar to a demon but smaller and less powerful. [from 16th c.]
    • Beattie
      to mingle in the clamorous fray of squabbling imps
  4. A mischievous child. [from 17th c.]
  5. (UK, dialect, obsolete) Something added to, or united with, another, to lengthen it out or repair it, such as an addition to a beehive; a feather inserted in a broken wing of a bird; or a length of twisted hair in a fishing line.
Related terms[edit]
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Etymology 2[edit]

Old English impian, apparently ultimately from a Latin source. Cognate with German impfen.


imp (third-person singular simple present imps, present participle imping, simple past and past participle imped)

  1. (obsolete) To plant or engraft.
  2. (archaic) To graft, implant; to set or fix.
    • 1596, Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, IV.9:
      That headlesse tyrants tronke he reard from ground, / And, having ympt the head to it agayne, / Upon his usuall beast it firmely bound, / And made it so to ride as it alive was found.
  3. (falconry) To engraft feathers into a bird's wing.
    "For, if I imp my wing on Thine" – Herbert (1633)
  4. To eke out, strengthen, enlarge.