Trend Watch

Committee 'Quorum' Advances Kavanaugh

Lookups rise 6300% during vote

Quorum spiked dramatically in lookups in the early afternoon of September 28th, 2018, following confusion around the Senate Judiciary Committee's vote to advance Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination to the Senate floor.

The word has several possible meanings; the one that is relevant to the Senate committee today is “the number (such as a majority) of officers or members of a body that when duly assembled is legally competent to transact business.” Quorum came into use in English in the 15th century, initially with the meaning of “a select number of English justices of the peace formerly required to be present at sessions to constitute a lawful bench.” The word also is used in the sense of “a select group,” and “a Mormon body comprising those in the same grade of priesthood.”

In Latin, the language from which the word came, quorum has the meaning “of whom,” and is the genitive plural of qui (meaning “who”). The sense which is applicable to the Senate's vote today came into use in the early 17th century.

In the Presbytery of Aughterarder there was but one Presbiterian Minister, and when the next was joyn'd to it, they made but three; so that when it was debated in the Assembly, whether one of them, to wit Mr. William Spence (of whom you will hear more afterward) should go for Angus; they pleaded against his going, because that without him they could not have a Quorum in the Country where he then lived.
— Anon., A Letter From Edinburgh to One in London, 1690

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