Trend Watch


Lookups for the word spiked after Carter used it to describe Trump

On February 3, former president Jimmy Carter was speaking to the British Parliament when he was asked which Republican candidate he'd prefer: Donald Trump or Ted Cruz.

Mr. Carter surprised the room by voicing a preference for Mr. Trump.

Trump has proven already that he’s completely malleable. I don’t think he has any fixed opinions that he would really go to the White House and fight for.

He went on to say that he found Ted Cruz to be unmalleable: "He has far right-wing policies, in my opinion, that would be pursued aggressively if and when he would become president."

Ted Cruz jumped on the opportunity to use Carter's words against Trump, perhaps missing that Carter's comments were not an endorsement of either candidate but the articulation of what a Hobson's choice the questioner presented. Carter's "completely malleable" comments appear in a new ad released by the Cruz campaign that attacks Trump.

Malleable in this use means "capable of being altered or controlled by outside forces or influences." The word came into English during the 14th century and was first used to refer to metal that was able to be beaten into shape by hammers. The Latin root of malleable is malleus, "hammer," which we took wholesale to refer to one of the bones in the ear, and which also gave us the word maul.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!