“Imminently Reasonable”

Reader Thomas Asch pointed me to a recent court decision that said something was “imminently reasonable,” when it clearly meant “eminently reasonable.” (The first reference to “imminently reasonable” in the case was in quotation marks, but the second was not.) This led me to do a bit of searching, and it turns out there are more than 200 opinions in Westlaw’s ALLCASES database that use “imminently reasonable,” though all or nearly all must mean “eminently reasonable.” It’s even present in one Supreme Court opinion from the mid-1980s.

Is this now a standard usage, or still a fairly rare variant? The answer seems to be the latter: Westlaw and Lexis searches over the past decade reveal that “eminently reasonable” remains more than 10 times more common than “imminently reasonable,” and the dictionaries I’ve checked (including the OED) don’t list “imminent” as a standard meaning of “eminent.” So stay clear on the difference between “imminent” and “eminent.” And stay away from “immanent” altogether.