Definitions and meaning of imp
The verb is from Middle English ympen, impen, from Old English impian, ġeimpian (“to graft”), from Proto-West Germanic *impōn, from Vulgar Latin *imputō (“to graft”) (unrelated to imputō (“I reckon, attribute”)), from Ancient Greek ἔμφυτος (émphutos, “planted”).
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/
- Rhymes: -ɪmp
imp (plural imps)
- A small, mischievous sprite, or a malevolent supernatural creature, somewhat comparable 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 […]
- A mischievous child. [from 17th c.]
- 1908, Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows
- I've left my young children to look after themselves, and a more mischievous and troublesome set of young imps doesn't exist...
- A baby Tasmanian devil.
- (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,”
- Out of these rootes spring other impes, no lesse perniciouse than the stockes of whiche they come […]
- (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 [...].
- 1600, Edward Fairfax (translator), Godfrey of Bulloigne (originally by Torquato Tasso)
- The tender imp was weaned from the teat.
- (Britain, 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.
- (mischievous child) brat, urchin, little dickens
imp (third-person singular simple present imps, present participle imping, simple past and past participle imped)
- (obsolete) To plant or engraft.
- (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.
- (falconry) To engraft (feathers) into a bird's wing.
- 1633, George Herbert, "Easter Wings"
- With thee / Let me combine, / And feel this day thy victory / For, if I imp my wing on thine, / Affliction shall advance the flight in me.
- To eke out, strengthen, enlarge.
- to graft feathers onto a birds's wing.
(source: Collins Scrabble Dictionary)