Lookups for 'Fascism' Trending 4.5x Higher Than Last Year
Fascist is a word that people have been looking up in the dictionary frequently for over a year. In fact, it has risen to the fourth spot in all-time lookups at M-W.com, showing an increase of more than 400% over 2015. Following election night, the word has consistently been at or near the top of the list of words being looked up in real time.
Fascism has been near the top of our lookups for a week, as it's been used or quoted in major websites and news outlets such as TIME, Reuters, and Buzzfeed. The word was also heavily used on social media, including a viral tweet from Republican strategist John Weaver:
Fascism means “a political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.”
Fascism comes from an Italian word formed from the Latin word for “bundle” or “group.” In English the word from the same Latin root is fasces (FASS-eez), meaning “a bundle of rods and among them an ax with projecting blade borne before ancient Roman magistrates as a badge of authority.” As a symbol of authority, the fasces has endured up to modern times and appeared on government buildings, on U.S. military insignia, and on coins, including the dime.
From the meaning “group,” fasces also came to mean “a politically united group,” and Benito Mussolini’s followers were called fascists as he rose to become Italy’s dictator in the 1920s. The word has since been used for leaders in many other places, and has been used to describe both right-wing and left-wing political groups.
The term has become less specific over time, and a second, broader definition has been added: “very harsh control or authority.”
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