impeachment

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English[edit]

Etymology[edit]

Facing impeachment (sense 1.3) by the United States Senate for his conduct in the Watergate scandal, President Richard Nixon decided to resign. Here he is pictured giving his farewell speech to White House staff on August 9, 1974.

From Middle English empechement (hindrance, impediment, obstacle, obstruction; legal accusation or charge; act of calling into question or discrediting; challenge to a claim or right),[1] and thence either:

The English word is analysable as impeach +‎ -ment.

Old French empechier, empeechier and empescher (compare modern French empêcher) are derived from Late Latin impedicāre (to catch; to entangle), present active infinitive of Latin impedicō (to entangle; to fetter), from im- (variant of in-) + pedica (fetter, shackle; snare, trap) (from pēs (foot), ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *ped- (to step, walk; to fall, stumble)) + .[5]

In senses 1.2 (“accusation that a person has committed a crime”) and 1.3 (“act of impeaching or charging a public official with misconduct”), the word has been used in place of Latin impetere, the present active infinitive of impetō (to assail, attack, rush upon).[4][5]

Pronunciation[edit]

Noun[edit]

impeachment (countable and uncountable, plural impeachments)

  1. (countable) The act of calling into question or challenging the accuracy or propriety of something.
    Synonyms: deprecation, depreciation, discrediting, disparagement
    • 1530 February, Stephen Gardiner; Edward Foxe, “XXXII. A Letter from Gardiner and Fox, about Their Proceedings at Cambridg. An Original.”, in Gilbert Burnet, The History of the Reformation of the Church of England, first part (Of the Progress Made in It during the Reign of K. Henry the VIII.), London: Printed by T. H. for Richard Chiswell, [], published 1679, OCLC 1030811306, book II (Of the Process of Divorce between King Henry and Queen Katharine, []), page 85:
      [] Nevertheleſs there was no ſo much care, labour, ſtudy, and diligence employed on our Party, by them, our ſelf, and other, for attaining your Grace's Purpoſe, but there was as much done by others for the lett and empeachment of the ſame; []
    • 1588, G[abriel] H[arvey], “The Fourth Letter. To the Same Favourable or Indifferent Reader.”, in Fovre Letters, and Certaine Sonnets, especially Touching Robert Greene, and Other Parties by Him Abused: [], London: Imprinted by Iohn Wolfe, for Edward White, OCLC 84013514; republished as J[ohn] P[ayne] C[ollier], editor, Fovre Letters, and Certaine Sonnets (Miscellaneous Tracts Temp. Eliz. & Jac. I), [London: s.n., 1870], OCLC 907145924, page 58:
      The leaſt may thinke upon Fabius Maximus, who with an honourable obſtinacy purſued the courſe of his owne platforme, notwithſtanding a thouſand empeachments; and although ſlowly, with much murmuring, yet effectually with more reputation, atchieved his politicke purpoſe: [...]
    • 1643, William Prynne, “The Treachery and Disloyalty of Papists to Their Soveraignes, in Doctrine and Practise. [] The Second Edition, Enlarged.”, in The Soveraigne Povver of Parliaments and Kingdomes: Divided into Fovre Parts. Together with an Appendix: [], printed at London: For Michael Sparke Senior, OCLC 22720680, page 105:
      [T]he Soveraign Power, and Iuriſdiction both in the Roman and German Empires, and in moſt forraign Chriſtian Kingdoms, was, and yet is, in the Senate, People, Parliaments, States, Dyets; yet this is no empeachment at all to their royall Supremacies, or Titles of Supreme Heads, and Governours, within their own Dominions, [...]
    • 1904, Robert Anderson, chapter III, in Pseudo-criticism: Or The Higher Criticism and Its Counterfeit, New York, N.Y.; Chicago, Ill.: Fleming H. Revell Company, OCLC 1191998, page 33:
      My words are not to be misread as a veiled attack on their integrity or their honour. They are intended as a frank and open impeachment of their judgment. [...] In certain quarters, I doubt not, this impeachment and this protest will provoke a sneer.
    • 1952 September 15, C[live] S[taples] Lewis, “The Dark Island”, in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, London: Geoffrey Bles, OCLC 2805288; republished New York, N.Y.: Collier Books, Macmillan Publishing Company, 1970, →ISBN, page 152:
      And here is as great an adventure as ever I heard of, and here, if we turn back, no little impeachment of all our honours.
    1. (countable, law) A demonstration in a court of law, or before another finder of fact, that a witness was ingenuine before, and is therefore less likely to tell the truth now.
      • 1903 November 16, Francis T. Nicholls, Chief Justice, “Barras et al. v. Barras”, in T. H. Thorpe, editor, Louisiana Reports: Cases Argued and Determined in the Supreme Court of Louisiana at Term Beginning First Monday of November, 1903, volume III, St. Paul, Minn.: West Publishing Co., published 1904, OCLC 16043627, column 299:
        It is sometimes intimated that testimony which is direct and positive cannot legally be rebutted and overturned by presumptions less high than those which are juris et de jure in the absence of impeachment of the credibility of the witnesses. We are not prepared to accept that proposition unqualifiedly.
    2. (countable, law, Britain) An accusation that a person has committed a crime against the state, such as treason.
      • 1680 December 4, “The Fifth Day”, in The Tryal of William Viscount Stafford for High Treason, [], Dublin: Reprinted by Jos[eph] Ray, [], and are to be sold by S. Helsham, Joh. North, Jos[eph] Howes [], published 1681, OCLC 933071073, page 243:
        He [William Howard, 1st Viscount Stafford] is charged in the Articles of Impeachment with Contriving the Death of the King, and being at ſeveral Meetings and Conſults about the King's Death, and Hiring Perſons to kill the King; And are theſe no Overt Acts? [...] My Lords, another Exception that is taken, is, That there is no Indictment. I conceive that an Impeachment of the Houſe of Commons is more than an Indictment. And there cannot be any doubt of that, the Impeachment of the Houſe of Commons having always been received and proceeded on by your Lordships.
      • 1923, Georgette Heyer, “The Revenge”, in The Great Roxhythe, Boston, Mass.: Small, Maynard and Company, OCLC 7521756, page 325:
        Backed by the Treasurer's bitterest enemies he brought charges against Danby. Impeachment followed. There was fresh uproar in the House.
    3. (countable, law, chiefly US) The act of impeaching or charging a public official with misconduct, especially if serious, often with the aim of having the official dismissed from office.
      • 1774 May, “American Affairs”, in Sylvanus Urban [pseudonym; Edward Cave], editor, The Gentleman’s Magazine, and Historical Chronicle, volume XLIV, London: Printed [], for D[avid] Henry, and sold by F[rancis] Newbery, [], published January 1755, OCLC 192374019, pages 236–237:
        The Boſton Gazette of March 7 contains articles of impeachment of high crimes and miſdemeanors againſt Peter Oliver, Eſq; Chief Juſtice of the Superior Court of Judicature, &c., over the Province of Maſſachuſets Bay, by the Houſe of Repreſentatives in General Court aſſembled, [...] [T]he Aſſembly perſiſted in their impeachment, which was carried, upon a diviſion, yeas 92, nays 8: [...]
      • 1788, Publius [pseudonym; Alexander Hamilton], “Number LXV. A Further View of the Constitution of the Senate, in Relation to Its Capacity as a Court for the Trial of Impeachments.”, in The Federalist: A Collection of Essays, Written in Favour of the New Constitution, [] In Two Volumes, volume II, New York, N.Y.: Printed and sold by J. and A. M'Lean, [], OCLC 642792893, page 211:
        The awful diſcretion, which a court of impeachments muſt neceſſarily have, to doom to honour or to infamy the moſt confidential and the moſt diſtinguiſhed characters of the community, forbids the commitment of the truſt to a ſmall number of perſons.
      • 1803, Alexander Addison; Thomas Lloyd, stenographer, The Trial of Alexander Addison, Esq. [], on an Impeachment by the House of Representatives, before the Senate of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. [], 2nd edition, Lancaster, Pa.: Printd by George Helmbold, junior, for Lloyd and Helmbold, jun., OCLC 926734832, pages 103–104:
        The acts for which an officer may be impeached, are preciſely thoſe for which he may be indicted as an officer; miſdemeanors in office, offences or unlawful acts done with an evil intention in his official capacity. For ſuch only can he be convicted on an Impeachment. And no officer can be convicted on an Impeachment, unleſs, on the ſame charge, and on the ſame evidence, he ought to be convicted on an Indictment. The ground of both is an unlawful act with an evil intention. Impeachment is Indictment, in other form, adopted in England for great offenders, whoſe influence might defeat the justice of the ordinary tribunals, and retained in Pennſylvania, either from ſimilar motives, or from imitation.
      • 1853, John Bruce, editor, Letters and Papers of the Verney Family down to the End of the Year 1639. Printed from the Original MSS. in the Possession of Sir Harry Verney, Bart. (Publications (Camden Society); 56), London: Printed for the Camden Society, by John Bowyer Nichols and Sons, [], OCLC 1009336804, page 271:
        Another letter [...] is worthy of being remembered, not merely as expressing more clearly Edmund Verney's antipathy of a Scotish war, but also as indicating what were his expectations, and no doubt the general expectations, of the results of calling a parliament. The quashing of ship-money, the abolition of monopolies, and even the impeachments of [William] Laud and [Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of] Strafford, are here clearly foreseen.
      • 2010 April 8, Elizabeth B. Bazan; Anna C. Henning, “Summary”, in Impeachment: An Overview of Constitutional Provisions, Procedure, and Practice (CRS Report for Congress; 98-186), [Washington, D.C.]: Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress, OCLC 638959508:
        The impeachment process provides a mechanism for removal of the President, Vice President, and other federal civil officers found to have engaged in "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors." The Constitution places the responsibility and authority to determine whether to impeach and to draft articles of impeachment in the hands of the House of Representatives. A number of means have been used to trigger the House's investigation, but the ultimate decision in all instances as to whether impeachment is appropriate rests with the House. Should the House vote to impeach and vote articles of impeachment specifying the grounds upon which impeachment is based, the matter is then presented to the Senate for trial.
      • 2013, Leon Zamosc, “Popular Impeachments: Ecuador in Comparative Perspective”, in Mario Sznajder, Luis Roniger, and Carlos A. Forment, editors, Shifting Frontiers of Citizenship: The Latin American Experience (International Comparative Social Studies; 29), Leiden: Brill, →ISBN, ISSN 1568-4474, page 265:
        In popular impeachments, the street protesters use disruption in order to apply the ultimate accountability sanction for a president: removal from power. [...] Popular impeachments have only happened under extraordinary circumstances. In the case of legal accountability: blatant corruption, abuses of power, or both, that seem to go unpunished. In the case of political accountability: economic meltdowns, major political crises, or both, with no signs of light at the end of the tunnel.
  2. (uncountable) The state of being impeached.
    • 1918, Robert Southey, “The Siege of Zamora”, in William Patten, editor, Heroes and Heroines of Chivalry (The Junior Classics; IV), New York, N.Y.: P[eter] F[enelon] Collier & Son Corporation, OCLC 904436694, pages 319–320:
      And Don Diego Ordoñez answered, [...] ye of Zamora have received Vellido and harbored him within your walls. [...] And for this I impeach the people of Zamora, the great as well as the little, and living and the dead. [...] Don Arias Gonzalo replied, [...] But know that you have been ill advised in making this impeachment, for the manner is, whosoever impeacheth a council must do battle with five, one after another, and if he conquer the five he shall be held a true man, but if either of the five conquer him, the council is held acquitted and he a liar.
  3. (uncountable, archaic) Hindrance; impediment; obstruction.
    • 1599, William Shakespeare, “The Life of Henry the Fift”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies: Published According to the True Originall Copies (First Folio), London: Printed by Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, [Act III, scene vi], page 81, column 2:
      Turne thee back, / And tell thy King, I doe not ſeeke him now, / But could be willing to march on to Callice, / Without impeachment: [...]
    • 1732, Flavius Josephus; William Whiston, transl., A Compleat Collection of the Genuine Works of Flavius Josephus Faithfully Translated from the Original Greek. [], London: Printed and sold by D. Henry, [], OCLC 837132843; republished as chapter VIII, in The Genuine Works of Flavius Josephus; Translated [] Containing Six Books of the Antiquities of the Jews, volume II, New York, N.Y.: Printed for Evert Duyckinck, John Tiebout, and M. & W. Ward, 1810, OCLC 1018068900, book IX (Containing the Interval of 157 Years. [From the Death of Ahab to the Captivity of the Ten Tribes.]), paragraph 1, page 253:
      Now Hazael, king of Syria, fought against the Israelites, and their king Jehu, and spoiled the eastern parts of the country beyond Jordan, [...] and this without impeachment from Jehu, who made no haste to defend the country when it was under this distress: [...]
    • 1908, Joseph Jacob Muskett, “Hovell of Wyverstone”, in Suffolk Manorial Families, being the County Visitations and Other Pedigrees, Edited, with Extensive Additions, volume II, Exeter, Devon: William Pollard & Co. Ltd., [], OCLC 505046558, page 58:
      Robert Hovell, Licence to Hunt Foxes, &c. 1231 [...] The King has granted to Robert Hovel that he and his heirs may have freely and without impeachment of the King's foresters and their ministers, through the whole forest bailywick of Essex, their dogs running for fox or hare and to chase and take the same, as is more fully contained in the King's charter to him thereupon made. And it is commanded Richerd de Munfichet that he permit the said Robert and his heirs to have without impeachment their dogs running though all the aforesaid forest for hare and fox and to chase and take the same as is aforesaid.

Alternative forms[edit]

Related terms[edit]

Translations[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ empēchement, n.” in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007, retrieved 24 April 2019.
  2. ^ empēchen, v.” in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007, retrieved 24 April 2019.
  3. ^ -ment, suf.” in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007, retrieved 24 April 2019.
  4. 4.0 4.1 James A. H. Murray [et al.], editor (1884–1928), “Impeachment”, in A New English Dictionary on Historical Principles (Oxford English Dictionary), volume V (H–K), London: Clarendon Press, OCLC 15566697, page 79, column 2; “impeachment, n.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1899; “impeachment, n.” in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press.
  5. 5.0 5.1 impeach, v.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1899.

Further reading[edit]


Spanish[edit]

Etymology[edit]

English impeachment

Pronunciation[edit]

  • IPA(key): /imˈpit͡ʃmen/, [ĩmˈpit͡ʃmẽn]

Noun[edit]

impeachment m (plural impeachments)

  1. impeachment (political trial) (especially in reference to the political systems of English-speaking countries)
    Synonyms: destitución, impugnación
    • 2000, El asesinato jurídico de Alan García (5 de abril de 1992), Centro de Estudios Enrique Tierno Galván:
      En consecuencia, el impeachment británico es en la práctica un verdadero proceso penal que se lleva dentro del Parlamento.
      (please add an English translation of this quote)