The word impeach as a verb has been around for a good 130 years prior to its initial appearance as a noun. It was borrowed from Anglo-French empecher, and originally meant "to hinder" or "prevent". Through manifold variations such as enpeche, enpesshe, empeach, impesche, and eventually impeach, it acquired its modern definition in the sixteenth century, peaking in usage in the 1660s, although Google Trends shows a marked increases in searches since the 2016 presidential election. Empecher derives from Old French empeechier, and that's from Latin impedicare, "to entangle" or "fetter". Impedicare is composed of the prefix in-, which meant "into", and pedica, which meant "shackles" and, through Proto-Italic, eventually derives from the Proto-Indo-European word ped, meaning "foot". So the word went from feet to shackles to entanglement to hindrance to political removal: a fascinating transition!
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a junior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.