Trending: β€˜espionage,’ β€˜Espionage Act’

Why are people looking up the words espionage and Espionage Act?

The seizure of classified government documents from former president Donald Trump's Florida home included some that constitute potential violations of a law called the Espionage Act.

The headline of Politico used the term:

FBI search warrant shows Trump under investigation for potential obstruction of justice, Espionage Act violations

What do the words espionage and Espionage Act mean?

Espionage is defined as:

: the practice of spying or using spies to obtain information about the plans and activities especially of a foreign government or a competing company

Our large Unabridged dictionary adds further detail to the definition:

especially : such spying by special agents upon people of a foreign country or upon their activities or enterprises (such as war production or scientific advancement in military fields) and the accumulation of information about such people, activities, and enterprises for political or military uses

Where do the words espionage and Espionage Act come from?

Espionage came to English from French in the late 1700s. The root word espier had been the source of the English word spy centuries earlier, in the 1300s.

What is notable about the use of the words espionage and Espionage Act?

The Espionage Act was passed in 1917, initially to prevent spying and passing on military secrets to enemies of the United States during World War I.

It also includes specific language about the removal or mishandling of government documents:

"Whoever, being entrusted with or having lawful possession or control of any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, instrument, appliance, note, or information, relating to the national defense, (1) through gross negligence permits the same to be removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of his trust, or to be lost, stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, or (2) having knowledge that the same has been illegally removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of its trust, or lost, or stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, and fails to make prompt report of such loss, theft, abstraction, or destruction to his superior officerβ€” Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both."

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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