Definition of interpellate in English:



[with object]
  • 1(in a parliament) interrupt the order of the day by demanding an explanation from (the minister concerned).

    • ‘I said I did not have the capability to become premier because many legislators were interpellating the premier in [Hoklo, more commonly known as Taiwanese], and I could not understand Taiwanese 100 percent.’
    • ‘Ruling and opposition lawmakers expressed their disagreement with the planned revisions when they interpellated Ho at the legislature's Home and Nations Committee meeting yesterday.’
    • ‘As of last week, 277 members had put their names to a plan to interpellate (formally question) the president over the reasons for his decision.’
  • 2Philosophy
    (of an ideology or discourse) bring into being or give identity to (an individual or category).

    • ‘Subjects are thus interpellated into the symbolic order as gendered and raced beings and are recognizable only in reference to the existing grid of intelligibility.’
    • ‘The history plays as a whole arguably concern the way in which people are interpellated by their symbolic titles, assume or fail to assume their symbolic titles, are transformed by those titles.’
    • ‘Genres are often seen prescriptively as a means of interpellating the subject into existing norms and hierarchies.’
    • ‘Insufficiency here (the recycling of the sequence, the absence of sound, and the use of slow motion) discloses the subjection inherent to super-nature and, in so doing, interpellates the spectator in a grieving of the spectacle.’
    • ‘To do so, of course, would require us to escape the system of signs that interpellates us as consumers, seize control of the means of production, and put it to some other use than competitive accumulation.’


Late 16th century (in the sense ‘interrupt’): from Latin interpellat- ‘interrupted (by speech)’, from the verb interpellare, from inter- ‘between’ + pellere ‘to drive’. interpellate (sense 1) dates from the late 19th century; interpellate (sense 2) is from the works of Althusser.