1. Compelling immediate action or attention; pressing.
2. Conveying a sense of pressing importance: an urgent message.
[Middle English, from Old French, from Latin urgēns, urgent-, present participle of urgēre, to urge.]
Synonyms: urgent, exigent, pressing, imperative
These adjectives mean compelling immediate attention. Urgent often implies that a matter takes precedence over others: "For I ride on an errand most urgent, and with the first light of morning we must go" (J.R.R. Tolkien).
Exigent and pressing suggest an urgency that requires prompt action: "When once disease was introduced into the rural districts, its effects appeared more horrible, more exigent, and more difficult to cure, than in towns" (Mary Shelley). "The danger now became too pressing to admit of longer delay" (James Fenimore Cooper).
Imperative implies a need or demand whose fulfillment cannot be deferred: "The stricken countries of Europe needed everything and could afford to buy nothing. Financial help was imperative" (David McCullough).
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.