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Is there a word meaning "without consequence" or better yet, a word meaning "the power to act without consequence"

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    inconsequential
    – Drew
    Jun 28, 2017 at 21:02
  • See recent discussion on big whoop. english.stackexchange.com/questions/396270/…
    – thomj1332
    Jun 28, 2017 at 21:07
  • All actions have consequence. You can't act without consequence. The question seems incoherent to me.
    – dangph
    Jun 29, 2017 at 3:57
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    @dangph: I think you're looking for philosophy SE. ;) Jun 29, 2017 at 6:04
  • It's normal to include some context when posing single word requests. The way you have left your question, the context could be anything from quantum mechanics to animal behavior. I'm sure you could narrow it down for us. Perhaps you could give an example of how it would be used. Jun 29, 2017 at 17:17

10 Answers 10

61

The word you may be looking for is impunity.

"exemption or freedom from punishment, harm, or loss"

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/impunity

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  • several synonyms are also very apt. Immunity comes to mind as good terms as well.
    – PV22
    Jun 29, 2017 at 1:34
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    +1 Question came up in my stackexchange "RELATED" feed. Jumped here to make sure someone had said "impunity." Jun 29, 2017 at 14:21
  • By far the best answer IMO
    – barbecue
    Jun 30, 2017 at 21:50
  • Thanks, barbecue :-) I think I just had the good luck to see the question early on, because I'm sure many other people would have suggested the same word.
    – jrdevdba
    Jul 5, 2017 at 19:40
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If you have been granted an ability to perform some action that normally has negative consequences without suffering those consequences, you may be said to have immunity:

freedom from an obligation or penalty to which others are subject - immunity from punishment
from m-w.com

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You could say you have a licence.

licence (ODO)

Freedom to behave as one wishes, especially in a way which results in excessive or unacceptable behaviour. ‘the government was criticized for giving the army too much licence’

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    Good answer; I think "licence" is best used with a qualifier, such as too much in your example. You could possibly say that someone has complete, total or absolute licence to behave contrary to the norm (or qualified licence if there are definite bounds to it). Jun 29, 2017 at 8:44
  • @TobySpeight In the context that the OP asked about, no qualifier is probably better. For example, "American police forces have been increasingly criticized for giving their officers license to shoot civilians for no good reason." Jun 29, 2017 at 18:33
  • The phrase "license to kill" of James Bond fame is often used to mean you can break the rules and get away with it in some context.
    – barbecue
    Jun 30, 2017 at 2:10
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In addition to the already good answers, I'd like to add:

scot-free

adverb

without suffering any punishment or injury.

"the people who kidnapped you will get off scot-free"

synonyms: unpunished, without punishment; unscathed, unhurt, unharmed, without a scratch; safely "the small-time dealers are behind bars, while the big bosses go scot-free"

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As posted earlier impunity is an excellent general term. If the ability to act without consequence is an advantage granted to someone in a specific circumstance or by a specific power you could also consider:

Privilege [priv-uh-lij, priv-lij] /noun

  1. a right, immunity, or benefit enjoyed only by a person beyond the advantages of most.

  2. a special right, immunity, or exemption granted to persons in authority or office to free them from certain obligations or liabilities

Source: Dictionary.com

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Adjective: inconsequential in,kón-su'kwen-shul

  1. Lacking worth or importance

    "his work seems trivial and inconsequential";

    • inconsequent
  2. Not following logically as a consequence

-- WordWeb

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    That second definition is pretty idiomatic (meaning I wouldn't know what you meant). The fact that there was even one tree still standing after that forest fire was inconsequential. Did I mean that it didn't matter that there was one tree left, or that it logically doesn't follow that there would still be one?
    – Mazura
    Jun 29, 2017 at 0:52
  • DV - I believe definition two is the crux of the answer. However, I believe it does not describe the situation. I believe that it is more about how the consequence doesn't logically align with the original action. I believe it more accurately describes a situation like the following; I won the game but then I was booed by the crowd.
    – PV22
    Jun 29, 2017 at 1:27
  • @Mazura: It didn't matter that one tree was left standing after the forest was razed; the damage was done and its improbable survival was inconsequential. Jun 29, 2017 at 6:08
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    As a native (BrEng) speaker, I don't think I've ever heard inconsequential used to mean anything other than the first definition. Jun 29, 2017 at 9:52
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Depending on context, I would use 'futile'.

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    Please consider adding a definition/reference and an example
    – 0xFEE1DEAD
    Jun 29, 2017 at 11:57
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    Also abortive, failing to produce the intended result.
    – sam
    Jun 29, 2017 at 19:08
  • futile or abortive would be fitting answers to this question if the OP had wanted a word for "without consequence" interpreted as "no impact" or "ineffectual." But the definition phrase the OP used was "the power to act without consequence" - in that case, the word power connotes ability to act without punishment or other consequences, rather than the lack of power suggested by futile or abortive.
    – jrdevdba
    Jul 5, 2017 at 19:43
  • The question contains two distinct meanings and this is a good answer for the first. Also I came to add ineffectual, not producing any or the desired effect, but you did so already, good work. c:
    – sam
    Jul 12, 2017 at 20:23
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A more obscure but colorful term, a marque (from letter of marque and reprisal) is essentially permission to commit acts which would normally be considered criminal.

In the past it would be an actual letter from a government giving a private citizen permission to attack merchant ships under the flag of an enemy government without fear of being prosecuted for piracy. It was literally legalized piracy, and practitioners were called privateers.

Although the concept still exists legally, it's rarely used today, but the term is sometimes still used figuratively to mean permission to break the rules.

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Take a good look at the question:

Is there a word meaning "without consequence" or better yet, a word meaning "the power to act without consequence"

The first part suggests an adjective or adverb, while the second suggests a noun. Impunity certainly comes to mind, but to my knowledge there is no adjectival form of it in English. And impunity is not exactly "the power to..." Etymologically, it basically means unpunished (http://etymonline.com/index.php?term=impunity). So there you go. I think unpunished is about the best we can do if you're looking for something adjectival rather than nominal.

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As an answer to the first part one can use Impunity which the Oxford Dictionary online defines as:

impunity

NOUN

Exemption from punishment or freedom from the injurious consequences of an action.

‘the impunity enjoyed by military officers implicated in civilian killings’

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  • I have edited your answer by putting in the source from which it was derived and giving the example to show that the word is appropriate. I'm not sure why people are voting your answer down as such. Perhaps they would like to explain.
    – David
    Jun 29, 2017 at 20:56
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    Oh. I see now. It is a duplicate of an existing answer. I only saw it out of context when reviewing answers that had been flagged as dubious because of their length. Could have saved myself the time. Anyway it's an example of what is required.
    – David
    Jun 29, 2017 at 20:58

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