Trend Watch

Obama Says Payment to Iran Was Not 'Ransom'

Lookups for 'ransom' spiked after a State Department spokesperson said the U.S. used the payment as 'leverage'

Look-ups for ransom increased dramatically on August 18th, after a spokesperson for the State Department said the U.S. used a $400 million payment to Iran as "leverage" to secure the safe release of American prisoners.

President Barack Obama and other U.S. officials have said the payment didn’t amount to ransom, because the U.S. owed the money to Iran as part of a longstanding dispute linked to a failed arms deal from the 1970s. —Jay Solomon and Carol Lee, The Wall Street Journal, 18 Aug., 2016

Republicans have described the payment as ransom. The resulting social media discussion of "the definition of ransom" led to a spike in traffic to... the definition of ransom.

Ransom is a fairly old word: its use dates back to the 12th century. It shares a seemingly incongruous connection with the word redemption: both words may be traced back to the Latin redemptio, which may refer to the redemption from sin or the act of ransoming.

Trend Watch tracks popular lookups to see what people are talking about. You can always see all Trend Watch articles here.

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