Trending: β€˜existential’

Lookups spiked 8,000% on October 7, 2020

Why are people looking up existential?

Kamala Harris used the term existential threat during the Vice Presidential debate on October 7, 2020, when referring to climate change.

What does existential mean?

Existential is defined as "of, relating to, or affirming existence" and can also be used to mean "grounded in existence or the experience of existence," a synonym of empirical.


Existential dates to the 17th century in English, a period during which many Latin words were brought into language that has an elevated tone.

For existential or sensual, I grant many, that there is a Sun that shineth, that the fire heateth, &c. yet a blind man and the Paralytick denies both.
β€” Philip King, The surfeit to A B C, 1656

The term existential threat, a common combination of words, dates to the 1960s:

”The basic existential threat of existence and its meaning constitutes the greatest 20th century threat to women as they enter the crucial 30’s,” according to the Rev. Thaxton Springfield.
β€” Helen De Groodt, The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, FL), 15 Mar. 1967

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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