Eminent vs. Imminent

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Q: I've seen a word spelled two ways and was wondering which way is correct: "eminent" or "imminent"?—Phillip M.

A: Actually, both are correct spellings because both are words in the English language. But they aren't synonymous with each other and, in fact, have completely unrelated meanings.

"Eminent" is used to describe someone (or something) that is distinguished or respected in a sphere or profession. Mark Twain was an eminent writer. When you have a grammar question, just ask WD's eminent word expert, Brian A. Klems.

"Imminent" is used to describe an event that is about to happen at any moment. The cancellation of the baseball game was imminent once the thunderstorm started. My first draft is in imminent danger of getting tossed into the trashcan.

If you want a little mnemonic device to help you remember the difference, try this: "Eminent" people are "Esteemed." "Imminent" things happen "In the moment."

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