Goto next slide"Apartheid"

When:

Lookups spiked on December 5, 2013.

Why:

Tributes to Nelson Mandela's life recounted his successful struggle to end apartheid.

Apartheid, "a former policy of segregation and economic discrimination against non-European groups in the Republic of South Africa," was the official name of the government policy introduced by South Africa's National Party in 1948.

Partly because of Mandela's efforts, apartheid became synonymous with a certain kind of injustice. As a result, it can now be used in a general way to mean "separation" or "segregation."

The word comes from Afrikaans, the South African language based on Dutch. Since Dutch is a close relative of English, we can see the word "apart" in apartheid. The -heid part of the word is the equivalent of "-hood" in English, as in parenthood or – appropriately in the context of Mandela's life – brotherhood.