The origins of "impeach"

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    Jan 09, 2009 5:18 PM GMT
    The headline says "Gov. Blagojevich impeached by the Illinois House of Representatives."

    I have wondered about the word "impeach." Always seemed like an odd word to me. I couldnt see any association between it and what it meant. Im-peach....what the hell is that?

    So here's what has to say about it's origin and usage:


    c.1380, "to impede, hinder, prevent," from Anglo-Fr. empecher, from O.Fr. empeechier "hinder" (12c.), from L.L. impedicare "to fetter, catch, entangle," from L. in- "in" + pedica "shackle," from pes (gen. pedis) "foot." Sense of "accuse a public officer of misconduct" first recorded 1568, via confusion with L. impetere "attack, accuse."

    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 impedic─üre, "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."

    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.

    This reminds me of the word "impede" ... in ped the way of the feet ... something that gets in the way of your feet impedes you.
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    Jan 09, 2009 7:11 PM GMT
    I apologize for mocking this thread.
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    Jan 09, 2009 7:32 PM GMT
    Interesting, I was wondering about that this morning. I knew there had to be more to it since Clinton was impeached but remained in office.

    The Word of the Day on is really nice, it goes into the etymology of the word. I love to read and find myself drawn to words.

    It's really something to find a common or uncommon word and be able to learn of how it changed and survived throughout its existence... well, it could be my over active imagination too. icon_biggrin.gif