tr.v. im·peached, im·peach·ing, im·peach·es
a. To make an accusation against: impeach someone of a crime.
b. To bring formal charges against (a public official) for wrongdoing while in office.
2. To raise doubts about; discredit or disparage: impeach a witness's credibility; impeach someone's character.
[Middle English empechen, to impede, accuse, from Anglo-Norman empecher, from Late Latin impedicāre, to entangle : Latin in-, in; see IN-2 + Latin pedica, fetter; see ped- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
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. 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.
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.