transitive verb im·peached
a. To make an accusation against.
b. To charge (a public official) with improper conduct in office before a proper tribunal.
- To challenge the validity of; try to discredit: impeach a witness's credibility.
Origin: Middle English empechen, to impede, accuse
Origin: , from Anglo-Norman empecher
Origin: , from Late Latin impedicāre, to entangle
Origin: : Latin in-, in; see in-2
Origin: + Latin pedica, fetter; see ped- in Indo-European roots
Related Forms:Usage Note:
When an irate citizen demands that a disfavored public official be impeached, the citizen clearly intends for the official to be removed from office. This popular use of impeach
as a synonym of “throw out” (even if by due process) does not accord with the legal meaning of the word. As recent history has shown, when a public official is impeached, that is, formally accused of wrongdoing, this is only the start of what can be a lengthy process that may or may not lead to the official's removal from office. In strict usage, an official is impeached (accused), tried, and then convicted or acquitted. The vaguer use of impeach
reflects disgruntled citizens' indifference to whether the official is forced from office by legal means or chooses to resign to avoid further disgrace.Word History:
Nothing hobbles a President so much as impeachment, and there is an etymological as well as a procedural reason for this. The word impeach
can be traced back through Anglo-Norman empecher
to Late Latin impedicāre,
“to catch, entangle,” from Latin pedica,
“fetter for the ankle, snare.” Thus we find that Middle English empechen,
the ancestor of our word, means such things as “to cause to get stuck fast,” “hinder or impede,” “interfere with,” and “criticize unfavorably.” A legal sense of empechen
is first recorded in 1384. This sense, which had previously developed in Old French, was “to accuse, bring charges against.”