Trend Watch

Comey: 'There is Going to Be a Terrorist Diaspora'

The F.B.I. director's comments at a cybersecurity conference led to a spike in lookups for 'diaspora'


Diaspora rose through the ranks of our most frequently searched words on September 27-28. The director of the F.B.I., James B. Comey, used it as he testified before Congress.. The word previously spiked on July 27th, 2016, when Comey used it at a cybersecurity conference.

“At some point there is going to be a terrorist diaspora out of Syria like we’ve never seen before,” Mr. Comey said at a cybersecurity conference at Fordham University. “Not all of the Islamic State killers are going to die on the battlefield."
—Joseph Goldstein, The New York Times, 27 July 2016

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Although the word is taken from an ancient language, 'diaspora' did not enter the English language until the end of the 16th century.

The earliest use of diaspora was “the settling of scattered colonies of Jews outside ancient Palestine after the Babylonian exile”; when used in this sense (or in other senses related to the area of state of Jews settled outside of ancient Palestine) the word is usually capitalized. It comes from the Greek diaspeirein meaning “to scatter.”

Although the word is taken from an ancient language, and initially described an ancient occurrence, diaspora did not enter the English language until the end of the 16th century. Our earliest recorded use comes from a translation by John Stockwood of Lambert Daneau’s A fruitfull commentarie vpon the twelue small prophets, taken from an edition published in 1594.

This scattering abrode of the Iewes, as it were an heauenly sowing, fell out after their returne from the captiuitie of Babylon … they are called Diaspora, that is, a scattering or sowing abrode.

By the middle of the 18th century the word was applied to a dispersion or spread of any group of people from their homeland.

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