Definition of impale in English:



  • 1Transfix or pierce with a sharp instrument.

    ‘his head was impaled on a pike and exhibited for all to see’
    • ‘Perhaps it's all for the best that I be impaled on his hood ornament.’
    • ‘A pensioner who survived being impaled on a metal fence-post was ‘critical but stable’ in hospital yesterday.’
    • ‘Why is it when someone in a horror film is impaled on something sharp, like a fence post, they always feel the need to look up momentarily, catching one final glance at the object that has killed them?’
    • ‘Aside from the spuds that were impaled on my spade after almost every thrust into the earth, these are on the menu for tonight along with roast butternut squash.’
    • ‘Although imbibing nothing stronger than orange juice, he later tripped and was almost impaled on a halberd.’
    • ‘Looking out from its burrow as the selected fish swims past, its claws lunge forward and, striking in as little as 3 milliseconds, trap the prey by impaling it.’
    • ‘A Yorkshire schoolboy cheated death after he was impaled on an iron spike that went straight through his throat.’
    • ‘The tough waxy leaf cuticle may be problematic for impaling the epidermal cells of some plants, but this difficulty can be overcome by optimizing the shape of the electrode tip.’
    • ‘At one end of the grotto, an elf is impaled on a spike.’
    • ‘Prey is not chewed or ground in the mouth: once it is impaled on the sharp teeth, it is swallowed whole.’
    • ‘Bow hunters have fallen on their bow or arrows, impaling themselves, and other hunters have fallen on their firearm or dropped it, resulting in an accidental shooting when the gun discharged.’
    • ‘I took the apple from my coat pocket and impaled it on a dead branch.’
    • ‘I'm going to be impaled on a million poisonous needles and die a slow, agonizing death.’
    • ‘She quickly punched the first one and jumped to the side as one tried to impale her with a spear.’
    • ‘It was then that I caught sight of a series of strange metal bars impaled within the side of the walls near the entrance of the corridor.’
    • ‘The chicken was impaled on a stick which was secured upright in the ground and the can was placed over it.’
    • ‘Stick your head through and hey presto, it looks to have been impaled on a pikestaff above York's royal gateway.’
    • ‘You plummet to the bottom screaming and are impaled on the spikes.’
    • ‘To stop transects from moving they were lightly impaled on a thin spike attached to the bottom of the dish.’
    • ‘So the government is impaled on the horns of a dilemma.’
    stick, skewer, spear, spike, pin, transfix
    pierce, stab, run through, bayonet, harpoon, lance
    gore, disembowel
    puncture, perforate
    View synonyms
  • 2Heraldry
    Display (a coat of arms) side by side with another on the same shield, separated by a vertical line.

    ‘the impaled arms of her husband and her father’
    1. 2.1(of a coat of arms) adjoin (another coat of arms) on the same shield.
      ‘the arms of the order are impaling those of the sovereign’
      • ‘In 1599 he applied to impale his arms with those of his wife's family.’
      • ‘In heraldic language, the arms of the two families are joined after a marriage, as demonstrated by the arms of Cadwalader on the left impaling those of the Lloyd family of Maryland on the right.’
      • ‘What is equally clear, however, is that the arms as engraved are not impaling his wife's, nor do they include his baronial coronet or the Garter badge, both of which he had been entitled to since 1572.’


Mid 16th century (in the sense ‘enclose with stakes or pales’): from French empaler or medieval Latin impalare, from Latin in- in + palus a stake.