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See also: imp., Imp., and IMP



The verb is from Old English impian (to graft), from Proto-Germanic *impōną, *impitōną (to graft) (> Old High German impfōn, German impfen (inoculate, vaccinate)), from Vulgar Latin *imputō (I graft) (unrelated to imputō (I reckon, attribute)), from Ancient Greek ἔμφυτος (émphutos, planted). Cognate with Danish ympe, German Impf, Swedish ymp.

The noun is from Middle English impe, ympe, from Old English impa, impe (an imp, scion, graft, shoot; young tree), from the verb.



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.


Derived terms[edit]


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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.