Trend Watch

Brennan Questions Trump's 'Probity'

Lookups rise 3100% after security clearance revoked


Probity ("adherence to the highest principles and ideals") experienced a surge in lookups on August 15th, 2018, following the use of the word in a tweet by former CIA Director John Brennan, and the resultant contretemps when the White House announced the revocation of Brennan's security clearance.

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Photo: Pete Souza

The word is a synonym of 'honesty,' integrity,' and 'uprightness.'

In English use since the 15th century, probity comes from the Latin probus (meaning "honest"), a root it shares with prove and improbity ("lack of integrity or rectitude; dishonesty").

For tho he was endowed with too much Wit and Courage, to be either hector'd or wheedl'd, to be any Man's Tool and Property; yet through lack of Probity on the one hand, and excess of Ambition on the other, he was easily prevail'd upon to become an Instrument of ruining and enslaving his Country.
— Robert Ferguson, The late proceedings and votes of the Parliament of Scotland contained in an address delivered to the King, 1689



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