Word: impeachment

Pronunciation: im-PEECH-mənt

Part of Speech: noun


  1. the action of calling into question the integrity or validity of something
  2. a charge of misconduct made against the holder of a public office
  3. a charge of treason or another crime against the state

Source: Oxford Dictionaries

As long as we’re on the subject of politics, let’s continue on current events and shift focus for a moment from the USA to Brazil. At the time of writing this entry, Brazil is in the middle of one of the biggest political events of its history: while millions of Brazilians are taking to the streets in protest (both anti- and pro-government), their Congress is voting on whether or not to continue the process of removal of the country’s president, Dilma Rousseff (the latest chapter in a long story that you can learn more about here). In a nutshell, her removal from office is being debated because she’s currently involved in Brazil’s most serious corruption scandal to date. With such a bad reputation and a less-than-10% approval rating by the population, it’s no wonder so many Brazilians are calling for her “impeachment”!

The “impeachment” of something as a general term refers to the questioning of its validity or integrity, while the “impeachment” of a public official is a charge of misconduct against them, usually followed by the removal of said official from office. This word is the noun form of the verb “impeach” (“call into question the integrity or validity of a practice”), which arose in Late Middle English in the sense “hinder” or “prevent”. This verb derives from the Old French verb empecher “to impede”, which in turn stems from the Latin verb impedicare, meaning “to catch” or “to entangle”.

In modern history, “impeachment” seems to have become synonymous simply with the removal of a public official from office, though it’s important to note that the more thorough definition refers to a trial against said official for unlawful activity. In British English, the word can also refer to “a charge of treason or another crime against the state”. If you write stories with politicians who commit serious crimes against the population, then like the Brazilian people, your characters may want to call for “impeachment”!

Bonus: for those of you who prefer your news funny and concise, Brazil’s political situation has also been covered by John Oliver in this hilarious three-minute segment on Last Week Tonight. Enjoy!

What are your thoughts on this word? Any suggestions for future “Word of the Week” featured words?

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