Trending: abjure

Lookups spiked 6,700% on May 1, 2019

Why are people looking up abjure?

Abjure topped lookups on May 1, 2019, during Attorney General William Barr's testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Barr was asked by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse: "Have you ever referred to authorized department investigative activities officially or publicly as "spying"?

The Attorney General replied: "I'm not going to abjure the use of the word spying ... I don't think the word spying has any pejorative connotation at all."

He later added: "I don't consider it a pejorative."

Both spy and spying also spiked in our data from this testimony (though it was not the first time they've received extra attention from this story).

What does abjure mean?

Abjure is a term used in legal contexts that has two main meanings. Attorney General Barr was using sense 2 in his testimony:

1a : to renounce upon oath ("He abjured his allegiance to his former country.")
b : to reject solemnly ("She abjured her old beliefs.")

2 : to abstain from : AVOID

Where does abjure come from?

Abjure ultimately comes from the Latin prefix ab- ("away" or "off") and jūrāre (“to swear”), so that it literally means "to swear away."

It came to English through French from the Medieval Latin word abjūrāre, meaning "to repudiate, renounce (a right or claim), swear to stay away from."

What is notable about this use of abjure?

Use of abjure to mean "to avoid" is probably less common than its use to mean "to renounce."

Citations

It will create no surprise that both Houses of Convocation have at last stirred themselves to abjure the use of the word “damnation” in the New Testament and in the Prayer Book.
The Daily Telegraph (London, Eng.), 7 May 1918

Trend Watch is a data-driven report on words people are looking up at much higher search rates than normal. While most trends can be traced back to the news or popular culture, our focus is on the lookup data rather than the events themselves.

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