Trending: β€˜amoral’

Lookups spiked 4,300% on January 2nd, 2018

Why are people looking up amoral?

In an interview with the New York Times, former Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid made a distinction between two closely related adjectives:

Trump is an interesting person. He is not immoral but is amoral. Amoral is when you shoot someone in the head, it doesn’t make a difference. No conscience.

What does amoral mean?

Amoral is defined as "having or showing no concern about whether behavior is morally right or wrong."

Where does amoral come from?

Both amoral and immoral use Latin prefixes attached to moral. Moral derives from the Latin word meaning "custom" that also gave us mores.

The prefix a- means "not" or "without" (think ahistorical) and the prefix im- means "not" (think impossible).

Immoral is the older word in English, dating to the mid-1600s; amoral was first used in the late 1700s.

What is notable about this use of amoral?

A subtle distinction is made between the meanings of amoral and immoral that is connected with their classical prefixes: amoral denotes "without morals" and immoral denotes "not moral" or "against accepted morals," with the implication that, in the case of the latter term, expected standards are understood and breached, whereas, with amoral, expected standards of moral behavior are either unknown or unrecognized.

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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