Trend Watch

Obama: 'I Think He Is Pragmatic'

Lookups for 'gregarious' and 'pragmatic' spiked after Obama used them to describe Trump in a press conference

On Monday afternoon, President Obama gave his first press conference after Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election. During the press conference, he called Trump "gregarious", causing lookups to spike 3735% over the hourly average. He also caused lookups for pragmatic to spike 13000% over the hourly average:

Mr. Obama also said he thought that Mr. Trump was entering office with fewer set policy ideas than other presidents-elect. “I don’t think he is ideological,” Mr. Obama said. “I think ultimately he is pragmatic.”
—Julie Hirschfeld Davis, "Obama Urges Donald Trump to Send ‘Signals of Unity’ to Minority Groups and Women," The New York Times, 14 November 2016

Gregarious refers to being outgoing or sociable, and it stems back to the Latin word grex, which means "herd" or "flock." When gregarious first entered English in the 17th century, it referred to animals that lived in communities. Before too long, the word was also applied to human animals who preferred the company of others.

The other word used by Obama, pragmatic, is often thought of as a synonym of practical, which is fitting since they are etymological cousins. The Latin word we borrowed pragmatic from means "skilled in law or business"; the Latin etymon pragmaticus is a descendant of the Greek word for "deed." The earliest English meanings of pragmatic were less than complimentary: it was used as a synonym of officious and opinionated, but those meanings have fallen out of current use.

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