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


  • (UK, US) IPA(key): /ɪmp/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɪmp


imp (plural imps)

  1. A young or inferior devil; a malevolent supernatural creature, similar to a demon but smaller and less powerful. [from 16th c.]
    • 1771, James Beattie, The Minstrel:
      Nor cared to mingle in the clamorous fray / Of squabbling imps []
  2. A mischievous child. [from 17th c.]
  3. A baby Tasmanian devil.
    • 2012 May, Abigail Tucker, “What is Killing the Tasmanian Devil”, in Smithsonian Magazine:
      When they are upset, their ears blush a furious crimson, resembling red horns and adding to their diabolical image. (Baby devils, packed four to a pouch, are known as imps.)
    • 2013 December 31, Alama Park Zoo, “2013 Animal Conservation Achievements”, in Conservation:
      Alma Park Zoo’s Tasmanian Devil Program is continuing to contribute to enhancing the genetic diversity of Tasmanian Devils with four new imps arriving this year.
    • 2014 May, Julie Rehmeyer, “Fatal Cancer Threatens Tasmanian Devil Populations”, in Discover: Science for the Curious:
      Although this devil was new to her — he was at the neck of the peninsula, which she visited only once a year — she often trapped the same devils dozens of times over the years, watching them grow from tiny imps in their mothers’ pouches to the grizzled old age of about 5.
  4. (obsolete) A young shoot of a plant, tree etc. [9th–17th c.]
    • 14th c., Sir Orfeo, 69:
      Þai sett hem doun al þre / Vnder a fair ympe-tre.
    • 1571, Arthur Golding, The Psalmes of David and others. With M. John Calvins Commentaries, “Epistle Dedicatorie,”[1]
      Out of these rootes spring other impes, no lesse perniciouse than the stockes of whiche they come []
  5. (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 [...].
    • (Can we date this quote?) Fairfax
      The tender imp was weaned.
  6. (Britain, dialectal, 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 termsEdit


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout#Translations.


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.
    • 1633, Herbert, (Please provide the book title or journal name):
      For, if I imp my wing on Thine
  4. To eke out, strengthen, enlarge.