Find the word definition

Crossword clues for impossibility

The Collaborative International Dictionary

Impossibility \Im*pos`si*bil"i*ty\, n.; pl. Impossibilities.

  1. The quality of being impossible; impracticability.

    They confound difficulty with impossibility.

  2. An impossible thing; that which is not possible; that which can not be thought, done, or endured.

    Impossibilities! O, no, there's none.

  3. Inability; helplessness. [R.]

    Logical impossibility, a condition or statement involving contradiction or absurdity; as, that a thing can be and not be at the same time. See Principle of Contradiction, under Contradiction.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

late 14c., "quality of being impossible," from impossible + -ity; perhaps from or modeled on French impossibilité. Meaning "an impossible thing or occurrence" is from c.1500.


n. 1 Something that is impossible. 2 (context uncountable English) The quality of being impossible.

  1. n. incapability of existing or occurring [syn: impossibleness] [ant: possibility]

  2. an alternative that is not available [syn: impossible action]


In contract law, impossibility is an excuse for the nonperformance of duties under a contract, based on a change in circumstances (or the discovery of preexisting circumstances), the nonoccurrence of which was an underlying assumption of the contract, that makes performance of the contract literally impossible.

For example, if Rachel contracts to pay Joey $1000 to paint her house on October 1, but the house burns to the ground before the end of September, Rachel is excused from her duty to pay Joey the $1000, and he is excused from his duty to paint her house; however, Joey may still be able to sue under the theory of unjust enrichment for the value of any benefit he conferred on Rachel before her house burned down.

The parties to a contract may choose to ignore impossibility by inserting a hell or high water clause, which mandates that payments continue even if completion of the contract becomes physically impossible.

In common law, for the defense of "impossibility" to be raised performance must not merely be difficult or unexpectedly costly for one party, there must be no way for it to actually be accomplished; however, it is beginning to be recognized that "impossibility" under this doctrine can also exist when the contemplated performance can be done but only at an excessive and unreasonable cost, i.e., commercial impracticability. On the other hand, some sources see "impossibility" and impracticability as being related but separate defenses.

The English case that established the doctrine of impossibility at common law is Taylor v. Caldwell.

Usage examples of "impossibility".

Rousing further, she remembered Betta in the next room and faced the impossibility of her great-granddaughter giving birth without calling her.

As Clubfoot bent over him, hurting with the need and the impossibility of curing him by magic, the Warlock had gasped three words.

Green seems to have felt that his design, in its more ambitious scope, must be abandoned, and that, in the impossibility of applying the Coleridgian system of philosophy to all human knowledge, it was his imperative duty under his literary trust to work out that particular application of it which its author had most at heart.

Between these two paradigms of repetition there extends the border of donjuanesque eroticism whose furthest poles represent both its stake and its impossibility.

This is the leitmotif of Kantian philosophy: the necessity of the transcendental, the impossibility of every form of immediacy, the exorcism of every vital figure in the apprehension and action of being.

To bring us to so salutary a determination, nothing can be more serviceable, than to be once thoroughly convinced of the force of the Pyrrhonian doubt, and of the impossibility, that anything, but the strong power of natural instinct, could free us from it.

According to this division other continents south of the equator were supposed to exist and habited, some said, but not to be approached by those inhabiting the northern hemisphere on account of the presumed impossibility of traversing the equatorial regions, the heat of which was believed to be too intense.

An attempt to transport large bodies of troops, munitions and supplies across a great stretch of ocean, by seacraft, as was done during the World War from the United States to Europe, would be an impossibility.

Faking identity was a near impossibility where the secure taps were concerned.

Interview between the two Emperors at Tilsit,--Silesia restored to the Queen of Prussia--Unfortunate situation in Prussia-- Impossibility of reestablishing Poland in 1807--Foundation of the Kingdom of Westphalia--The Duchy of Warsaw and the King of Saxony.

This proposition was received with a storm of exclamations and with laughter, as at an impossibility, while I endeavoured to excite them to grant my request.

His very tailor regarded him as being simply extravagant in the number of his coats and trousers, and his friends looked upon him as one of those fortunate beings to whose nature belongs a facility of being well dressed, or almost an impossibility of being ill dressed.

Grenadiers losing their bearings, or from the mobility of the Boers, which made a flank attack an impossibility, it is certain that all became frontal.

Upon this the Boers made a half-hearted attempt, but Joubert had begun to realise the strength of the British reinforcements and the impossibility with the numbers at his disposal of investing a succession of British posts.

On the side nearest to the mountain these disturbances were such that a hasty glance was enough to show us the impossibility of advancing that way.