Trend Watch

After Trump Called on Russia to Find Clinton's Emails, a Surge in Lookups for 'Treason'

Lookups for 'treason' increased 76% as people reacted to the news on social media

Lookups for treason spiked 76% after comments by Donald Trump that seemed to encourage Russian spying on Hillary Clinton.

“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Mr. Trump said, staring directly into the cameras. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” Mr. Trump’s call was an extraordinary moment at a time when Russia is being accused of meddling in the U.S. presidential election.—Ashley Parker, The New York Times, 27 July 2016

Reaction on Twitter was immediate, with many people using treason to describe what seemed to be Trump’s encouragement of hacking directed at his opponent.

Treason comes to English from the Old French traison, which can be traced back to the Latin traditus, the past participle of tradere (“to hand over, betray”). Tradere is also the Latin origin of our word traitor.

Treason may refer broadly to a betrayal of trust or confidence, but in the sense relating to politics it is defined rather specifically as “the offense of attempting by overt acts to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance or to kill or personally injure the sovereign or his family,” and has a specifically legal meaning as well: “the act of levying war against the United States or adhering to or giving aid and comfort to its enemies by one who owes it allegiance.” This form of treason is occasionally referred to as high treason, which may be distinguished from petty (or petit) treason, which under English law historically applied to “the crime committed by a servant in killing his master, by a wife in killing her husband, or by an ecclesiastic in killing his superior.”

Trend Watch tracks popular lookups to see what people are talking about. You can always see all Trend Watch articles here.

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