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A small, mischievous devil or sprite. The word is recorded in Old English (in form impa, impe) in the sense ‘young shoot, scion’, impian ‘to graft’, based on Greek emphuein ‘to implant’. In late Middle English, the noun denoted a descendant, especially of a noble family, and later a child of the devil or a person regarded as such; hence a ‘little devil’ or mischievous child (early 17th century).

The verb imp in falconry, meaning repair a damaged feather in (the wing or tail of a trained hawk) by attaching part of a new feather, retains the original meaning ‘to graft’.

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