from The Century Dictionary.

  • To address with a question; especially, to question formally or publicly; demand an answer or explanation from: used originally in connection with French legislative proceedings: as, the ministry were interpellated with regard to their intentions.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • transitive verb To question imperatively, as a minister, or other executive officer, in explanation of his conduct; -- generally on the part of a legislative body.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • verb obsolete To interrupt (someone) so as to inform or question (that person about something).
  • verb philosophy To address (a person) in a way that presupposes a particular identification of them; to give (a person) an identity (which may or may not be accurate).
  • verb transitive To question (someone) formally concerning official or governmental policy or business.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • verb question formally about policy or government business


from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Latin interpello.


Help support Wordnik (and make this page ad-free) by adopting the word interpellate.



Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • One dire detail: in rapid Russian speech longish name-and-patronymic combinations undergo familiar slurrings: thus "Pavel Pavlovich," Paul, son of Paul, when casually interpellated is made to sound like "Pahlpahlych" and the hardly utterable, tapeworm-long "Vladimir Vladimirovich" becomes colloquialy similar to "Vadim Vadimych."

    --Vladimir Nabokov, 1974, Look at the Harlequins! p. 249

    June 13, 2009

  • From wikipedia:

    Interpellation is a concept of Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser to describe the process by which ideology addresses the (abstract) pre-ideological individual thus effectively producing him or her as subject proper. Henceforth, Althusser goes against the classical definition of the subject as cause and substance: in other words, the situation always precedes the (individual or collective) subject, which precisely as subject is "always-already interpellated." Althusser's argument here strongly draws from Jacques Lacan's concept of the Mirror stage and reveals obvious parallels with the work of his former student Michel Foucault in its antihumanist insistence on the secondary status of the subject as mere effect of social relations and not vice versa. Interpellation specifically involves the moment and process of recognition of interaction with the ideology at hand.

    June 23, 2009

  • I think it's fair to say that I have no idea of what this word really means.

    July 7, 2009

  • I'd like to think of it as an underlayer of fox fur. ;-)

    July 7, 2009

  • Humpty Dumpty would approve of interpellate. It seems able to mean whatever you want it to mean. Even better, pronunciation is apparently a matter of personal preference - perhaps because nobody has ever heard the word spoken. Absent the risk of comprehension or contradiction, utter it with authority.

    A flexible word, interpellate;

    The meanings quite proliferate.

    Pronounce as you please

    With confident ease

    And wield it to intimidate.

    February 17, 2015