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

Definition of interpellate

transitive verb

: to question (someone, such as a foreign minister) formally concerning an official action or policy or personal conduct

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from interpellate

interpellation \ ˌin-​tər-​pə-​ˈlā-​shən How to pronounce interpellation (audio) \ noun
interpellator \ ˌin-​tər-​ˈpe-​ˌlā-​tər How to pronounce interpellator (audio) , in-​ˈtər-​pə-​ˌlā-​ \ noun

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."

First Known Use of interpellate

1874, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for interpellate

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about interpellate

Time Traveler for interpellate

Time Traveler

The first known use of interpellate was in 1874

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast about interpellate

Statistics for interpellate

Cite this Entry

“Interpellate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Feb. 2020.

More from Merriam-Webster on interpellate

Britannica English: Translation of interpellate for Arabic Speakers

Comments on interpellate

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


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

More Confusing Words—Quiz

  • cats on impossible timber
  • The magician ______ moved the selected card to the top of the deck.
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Dictionary Devil

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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!