Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary


verb im·peach \im-ˈpēch\

Simple Definition of impeach

  • : to charge (a public official) with a crime done while in office

  • : to cause doubts about the truthfulness of (a witness, testimony, etc.)

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of impeach

  1. transitive verb
  2. 1 a :  to bring an accusation against b :  to charge with a crime or misdemeanor; specifically :  to charge (a public official) before a competent tribunal with misconduct in office c :  to remove from office especially for misconduct

  3. 2 :  to cast doubt on; especially :  to challenge the credibility or validity of <impeach the testimony of a witness>


play \-ˈpē-chə-bəl\ adjective


play \-ˈpēch-mənt\ noun

Examples of impeach in a sentence

  1. Congress will vote on whether or not to impeach the President.

  2. The defense lawyers tried to impeach the witness's testimony by forcing him to admit that he had changed his story.

Did You Know?

Only two presidents have faced an impeachment trial, both of them Democrats and both of them acquitted. The first was Andrew Johnson, who in 1868 was acquitted by one vote of violating the previous year’s Tenure of Office Act. The second was Bill Clinton, who in 1998 was acquitted by a much larger margin of perjury and obstructing justice in relation to the Monica Lewinsky scandal. But only one president, Republican Richard Nixon, has ever resigned, and that was to avoid inevitable impeachment for corruption in relation to the Watergate scandal. Nixon was granted an unconditional pardon by his successor Gerald Ford.

Origin and Etymology of impeach

Middle English empechen, from Anglo-French empecher, enpechier to ensnare, impede, prosecute, from Late Latin impedicare to fetter, from Latin in- + pedica fetter, from ped-, pes foot — more at foot

First Known Use: 14th century



noun im·peach

Definition of impeach


  1. :  charge, impeachment


First Known Use of impeach


IMPEACH Defined for Kids


verb im·peach \im-ˈpēch\

Definition of impeach for Students



  1. :  to charge a public official formally with misconduct in office

Law Dictionary


transitive verb im·peach \im-ˈpēch\

Legal Definition of impeach

  1. 1 :  to charge with a crime or misconduct; specifically :  to charge (a public official) before a competent tribunal (as the U.S. Senate) with misconduct in office Editor's note: Impeachment is the first step in removing an officer from office. The president, vice president, and other federal officers (as judges) may be impeached by the House of Representatives. (Members of Congress themselves are not removed by being impeached and tried, but rather are expelled by a two-thirds majority vote in the member's house.) The House draws up articles of impeachment that itemize the charges and their factual bases. The articles of impeachment, once approved by a simple majority of the House members, are then submitted to the Senate, thereby impeaching the officer. The Senate then holds a trial, at the conclusion of which each member votes for or against conviction on each article of impeachment. Two-thirds of the Senate members present must vote in favor of conviction. Once convicted, the officer can be removed from office. Although the Constitution specifies that an officer is to be impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors, impeachment can also occur for misconduct that is not necessarily criminal (as violation of the Constitution). Because impeachment is the first step taken to remove an officer from office, impeach is often used in general contexts to refer to the removal itself, but that is not its specific legal meaning. An officer generally cannot be impeached for acts done prior to taking office.

  2. 2 :  to cast doubt on: as a :  to attack the validity of (a judgment or verdict) because of judicial or juror misconduct b :  to challenge the credibility of (a witness) or the validity of (a witness's testimony) <a witness, including a criminal defendant who testifies in his own behalf, may be impeached on the ground of former conviction — W. R. LaFave and A. W. Scott, Jr.> — see also impeachment evidence at evidence — compare rehabilitate





Additional Notes on impeach

A witness may be impeached by character evidence or circumstantial evidence relating to the credibility of the witness, and especially on the grounds of prior convictions, prior inconsistent statements, contradiction by other evidence, and the witness's reputation for truth, prior acts of misconduct, and partiality.

Origin and Etymology of impeach

Anglo-French empecher, from Old French empeechier to hinder, from Late Latin impedicare to fetter, from Latin in- + pedica fetter, from ped-, pes foot

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up impeach? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to depart quickly

Get Word of the Day daily email!


Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!


Which is the correct spelling?

accomodate acommadate accommodate acommodate
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.