Powerless/impuissant - difference

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Senior Member
I looked up those words in Oxford Dictionary of English and they seem to convey the same meaning and are used in similar contexts. Is there any difference in the following sentence:
The recalcitrant student was a son of the headmaster, so the other teachers were powerless/impuissant to take any action against his unruly behaviour?
  • Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    The difference is that "powerless" is used and "impuissant" is not – I've never seen it in a sentence in my life. :D


    Senior Member
    USA English
    I have never, ever, encountered impuissant (French?) in American English.

    One of the first things a learner needs to know that just because a word appears in a dictionary, that doesn't mean it should be used.:cool:

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    So I think I shall never use it in a normal conversation. :)
    Right! Don't use it in writing either! It is French and I've never seen it or heard it in any English language situation.
    :)I could imagine that in legal language it's a left-over from Anglo Norman times when French was the official language.
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