1520s, "to enclose with stakes, fence in" (a sense continued in specialized uses into 19c.), from Middle French empaler or directly from Medieval Latin impalare "to push onto a stake," from assimilated form of in- "into, in" (from PIE root *en "in") + Latin palus "a stake, prop, stay; wooden post, pole," from PIE *pak-slo-, from root *pag- "to fasten." Sense of "pierce with a pointed stake" (as torture or capital punishment) first recorded 1610s. Related: Impaled; impaling.
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