impeach

1 of 2

verb

im·​peach im-ˈpēch How to pronounce impeach (audio)
impeached; impeaching; impeaches

transitive verb

1
: to charge with a crime or misdemeanor
specifically : to charge (a public official) before a competent tribunal with misconduct in office
After Andrew Johnson, the first president to be impeached, finished his chaotic and disgraceful administration, Grant was the inevitable successor. Richard Brookhiser
2
: to cast doubt on
especially : to challenge the credibility or validity of
impeach the testimony of a witness
The Husby's credit rating was impeached because IRS managers were unable to stop the … computer from generating false information. David Burnham
A basic rule of evidence permits any witness to be impeached by establishing that she made a prior statement inconsistent with the current testimony. Jack H. Friedenthal et al.
impeachable adjective
impeachment noun
Does impeach mean "to remove from office"?: Usage Guide

Testimonial evidence indicates that references to (and calls for) "impeaching" a public official are commonly understood to refer not simply to charging that official with misconduct "before a competent tribunal," but to actually removing the official from office. The interpretation is understandable if not legally accurate, since removal from office is typically the goal of impeachment, and there seems to be little doubt that the "remove" sense is what many people have in mind when they think or talk about impeaching a president, governor, judge, or other official. But clear examples of impeach being used to mean "remove" in published sources are rarely seen (in many contexts, the meaning is ambiguous), and when such use does occur, it is likely to be cited as an error.

impeach

2 of 2

noun

obsolete

Frequently Asked Questions

Are presidents removed from office when they are impeached?

Not necessarily. In the United States a president is impeached by the members of the House of Representatives. Once this body has drawn up charges and had them approved by a majority of House members, the Senate holds a trial. If a two-thirds majority of the Senate votes to convict then the president may be removed from office.

Which presidents were impeached?

Three Presidents of the United States have been impeached: Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton, and Donald Trump.

Can people other than the President be impeached?

Impeachment procedures vary from country to country, but the United States Constitution states that "The President, Vice President and all Civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors." A wide range of officials (including judges, presidents, and senators) have been impeached in the U.S.

Examples of impeach in a Sentence

Verb Congress will vote on whether or not to impeach the President. The defense lawyers tried to impeach the witness's testimony by forcing him to admit that he had changed his story.
Recent Examples on the Web
Verb
Castillo’s election followed a string of emergency and interim leaders after the downfall of former President Martin Vizcarra, who was impeached over allegations of corruption in November 2020. Claudia Rebaza, CNN, 30 Mar. 2024 Asked for a statement, DHS referred ABC News to the statement when Mayorkas was initially impeached. Lauren Peller, ABC News, 28 Mar. 2024 The House of Representatives impeached the sitting cabinet secretary on February 13 for his willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law and his breach of the public trust. Dan Stein, National Review, 1 Mar. 2024 Heimlich won the endorsement of former Rep. Adam Kinzinger, an Illinois Republican critical of Trump's attempt to overturn the 2020 election results and one of 10 Republicans in the U.S. House who voted to impeach Trump. Scott Wartman, The Enquirer, 20 Mar. 2024 Abbott endorsed candidates who supported his plan for voucher-like education savings accounts, while Paxton is looking to unseat every Republican who voted to impeach him over accusations Paxton abused his office to help real estate investor Nate Paul. Harrison Mantas, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 6 Mar. 2024 Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s endorsements Will Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton be able to exact revenge on those lawmakers who voted to impeach him? USA TODAY, 6 Mar. 2024 Clinging to the blue district, Valadao was one of only 10 House Republicans to vote to impeach Trump. Paul Rogers, The Mercury News, 5 Mar. 2024 In the Houston suburb of Katy on Monday evening, Mr. Abbott appeared with State Representative Jacey Jetton, who supported the governor’s private school voucher plan but had voted to impeach Mr. Paxton. J. David Goodman, New York Times, 3 Mar. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'impeach.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Verb

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

Verb

1569, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun

1590, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of impeach was in 1569

Dictionary Entries Near impeach

Cite this Entry

“Impeach.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/impeach. Accessed 16 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition

impeach

verb
im·​peach
im-ˈpēch
1
: to charge a public official formally with misconduct in office
2
: to cast doubt on
impeached the witness's testimony
impeachable
-ˈpē-chə-bəl
adjective
impeachment
-ˈpēch-mənt
noun

Legal Definition

impeach

transitive verb
im·​peach im-ˈpēch How to pronounce impeach (audio)
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

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
: 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 convictionW. R. LaFave and A. W. Scott, Jr.
see also impeachment evidence at evidence compare rehabilitate

Note: 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.

impeachable adjective
impeachment noun
Etymology

Transitive verb

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

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