in·​ter·​pel·​late ˌin-tər-ˈpe-ˌlāt How to pronounce interpellate (audio)
interpellated; interpellating

transitive verb

: to question (someone, such as a foreign minister) formally concerning an official action or policy or personal conduct
interpellation noun
ˌin-tər-ˈpe-ˌlā-tər How to pronounce interpellate (audio)

Did you know?

Interpellate is a word you might encounter in the international news section of a newspaper or magazine. It refers to a form of political challenging used in the congress or parliament of many nations throughout the world, in some cases provided for in the country's constitution. Formal interpellation isn't practiced in the U.S. Congress, but in places where it is practiced, it can be the first step in ousting an appointed official or bringing to task an elected one. The word was borrowed from the Latin term interpellatus, past participle of "interpellare," which means "to interrupt or disturb a person speaking." The "interrupt" sense, once used in English, is now obsolete, and "interpellate" should not be confused with "interpolate," which means "to insert words into a text or conversation."

Word History


Latin interpellatus, past participle of interpellare to interrupt, from inter- + -pellare (from pellere to drive) — more at felt

First Known Use

1874, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of interpellate was in 1874


Dictionary Entries Near interpellate

Cite this Entry

“Interpellate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Jul. 2024.

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