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Commonly Confused Words: Eminent/Imminent

Must the threat of harm be imminent or eminent for a plaintiff to have pre-enforcement standing?

Uses of Imminent:

  • Imminent (adjective): Imminent is an adjective that refers to something about to happen very soon: “After their curt response to the cease-and-desist letter, a lawsuit was imminent.”

Uses of Eminent:

  • Eminent (adjective): Eminent is typically used as an adjective to describe someone who is well-known or distinguished within their field or profession: “The eminent expert lectured on astrophysics to a crowd of over 10,000.”

  • Eminent Domain (legal term of art): Eminent Domain refers to the government’s power to take privately owned property for public uses if it pays just compensation: “Since the landowner refused to sell after several good-faith attempts, the State instituted condemnation proceedings through its eminent domain power.”
Rule: If you’re describing TIMING, you need imminent; if you’re describing REPUTATION, you need eminent.
Mnemonic: Something IMPENDING that will happen IMMEDIATELY after is imminent. Someone who is highly ESTEEMED in their field is eminent.