Trend Watch


When 'inevitable' isn't

When it spiked

February 9, 2016


Lookups for evitable, the little known cousin of inevitable, increased following its use in an article in the BBC News Magazine.

The magazine wrote:

Hillary is a seasoned, pragmatic, centre-left candidate. Her nomination by the Democratic Party was supposed to be inevitable. But it turns out that "evitable" is a real word in the English language. I checked the dictionary. We should start using it. (P. J. O’Rourke, BBC News Magazine, February 9, 2016)

Evitable is indeed a word (it means "capable of being avoided"), and it is included in many dictionaries, although it is considerably less known than its opposite, inevitable. Both words come from the Latin word of evitare (meaning "to avoid"), and inevitable, or unavoidable, is the older of the two (it has been in use since the 14th century, whereas the earliest known use of evitable is from 1502).

It is unclear why one of these words has seen considerable use over the past five hundred years, while the other has languished in relative obscurity. But this is the second time within the past month that evitable has been in the news. It appeared in a headline to an article in The Wall Street Journal on January 24th of 2016: “Is Hillary ‘Evitable’ Again?” Journalists appear to have a strong inclination to apply the word to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, as both of these candidates have seen the word applied to them in the past year on numerous occasions.

It has dawned on the Republican presidential field that Donald Trump’s inevitable self-destruction might be, gulp, evitable. (The Washington Post, August 21, 2015)

Evitable; Trump and Clinton can be beaten. (Manchester Union Leader, February 3, 2016)

Think about it: Hillary Clinton's "inevitability" is once again proving evitable, but not because of a classically eloquent senator with the chance of healing the nation, at least somewhat, by becoming its first African-American president. (Rocky Mountain Telegram, October 14, 2015)

It is always possible that the word could make a comeback. Just don’t ask us whether such a thing is inevitable.

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