By far the most common of these words is “eminent,” meaning “prominent, famous.” “Imminent,” in phrases like “facing imminent disaster,” means “threatening.” It comes from Latin minere, meaning “to project or overhang.” Think of a mine threatening to cave in. Positive events can also be imminent: they just need to be coming soon. The rarest of the three is “immanent,” used by philosophers to mean “inherent” and by theologians to mean “present throughout the universe” when referring to God. It comes from Latin manere, “remain.” Think of God creating man in his own image.

When a government exercises its power over private property it is drawing on its eminent status in society, so the proper legal phrase is “eminent domain.”

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