I have made it a point to look for words that I don’t know while I am reading so I can share them with you here on the blog. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has given me most of my new words so far in his stories about Sherlock Holmes. I wonder: were some of the words he used were common, everyday words in his time that have since dropped out of regular usage? I hope it’s not that my vocabulary was much smaller than I thought!

Anyway, the word impetus is in The Valley of Fear, one of The Greatest Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. It reminds me of the word Imp, a mischievous creature, so I wondered if impetus would have something to do with mischief or bad deeds. Especially since it is used in the context of Jack McMurdo and the lodge. Here is the actual definition. I was totally off.

Impetus – a driving force, impulse, or stimulus; the momentum of a moving body, especially with reference to the cause of motion

Usage: “If anything had been needed to give an impetus to Jack McMurdo’s popularity among his fellows it would have been his arrest and acquittal.”