Printable Version
Pronunciation: im-peech Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: 1. To bring formal charges against an office holder, as 'to impeach the president'. 2. To raise doubts about, call into question, discredit, as 'impeach someone's credibility'.

Notes: When we demand a public official be impeached, we usually intend for the official to be thrown out of office. However, when a public official is formally accused of wrongdoing, this only means he has been charged, not convicted and removed from office. The president of the United States may be impeached by the House, but then must be convicted by the Senate. The noun for this word is impeachment.

In Play: This word is used most often in reference to politics: "Democratic President Clinton was impeached by the Republican controlled House of Representatives along strict party lines, but he was found not guilty by the Senate." However, the second sense has more general applications: "Don't impeach my character by offering me blended scotch."

Word History: Today's Good Word was in Middle English empechen "to impede, accuse", from Anglo-French empecher, inherited from Late Latin impedicare "to entangle", originally "to put in fetters", comprising Latin in "in" + Latin pedica "fetter". The Proto-Indo-European root pod-/ped- "foot" is ubiquitous in Indo-European languages. In English it not only turns up in foot/feet and fetter, but in fetch and pioneer, borrowed from Old French peonier "foot soldier", built on Medieval Latin pedon "big-footed person". Greek used the o-variant for its pous/pod- "foot", which we see in out borrowed words podiatrist and tripod. (Today's Good Word was recommended by Mary Jane Stoneburg, a long-time editor of the GW series. We owe her a double portion of our usual gratitude.)

Dr. Goodword,

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