v. im·pinged, im·ping·ing, im·ping·es
a. To encroach on or limit something, such as a right: “powerful institutions of government that inhibited free enterprise and impinged on commercial—and by extension private—liberties” (Greg Critser).
b. Usage Problem To have an effect or influence: “Any consequence of a change in alleles ... is fair game for natural selection, so long as it impinges on the survival of the responsible allele, relative to its rivals” (Richard Dawkins).
a. To collide or strike against something: Sound waves impinge on the eardrum.
b. To advance over or press upon something: pain caused by a bone impinging upon a nerve.
To encroach upon; limit: “One of a democratic government's continuing challenges is finding a way to protect ... secrets without impinging the liberties that democracy exists to protect” (Christian Science Monitor).
[Latin impingere : in-, against; see IN-2 + pangere, to fasten; see pag- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Usage Note: The use of impinge meaning “to encroach; trespass,” as in Americans dislike any policy that impinges on their liberty, is well established as standard. However, when impinge is used more loosely to mean “to have an effect,” the Usage Panel is split. In our 2017 survey, only 46 percent of the Panel found the following sentence to be acceptable: What the recovered diary revealed about the villagers directly impinged on the lives of people living there many years later. This percentage is virtually unchanged from the 47 percent of the Panel that approved of the same sentence when it was last balloted in 2001.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.