Trending: surveillance

Lookups spiked 5,500% on April 12, 2019

Why are people looking up surveillance?

Surveillance pulled its unmarked van to the top of our lookups on April 12, 2019, after former FBI director James Comey commented on Attorney General William Barr's use of the word spying, as reported in The New York Times:

“When I hear that kind of language used, it’s concerning because the F.B.I., the Department of Justice conduct court-ordered electronic surveillance,” said Mr. Comey, who oversaw the inquiry until President Trump abruptly fired him in May 2017. “I have never thought of that as spying.”

What does surveillance mean?

Surveillance means "close watch kept over someone or something (as by a detective)."

By contrast, spy means "to watch secretly usually for hostile purposes."

Where does surveillance come from?

Surveillance came to English directly from French, where the verb surveiller meaning "to watch over" is built from sur- ("over" or "above") + veiller ("to watch"). It traces back to the Latin verb vigilare meaning "to watch," "to wake," ultimately from vigil ("awake," "watchful").

What is notable about this use of surveillance?

A near-synonym of surveillance is supervision, and the Latin parts of both words express a parallel relationship of meaning: supervision comes from the Latin words super ("over," "above") and vidēre ("to see"). So surveillance comes from the Latin words meaning "to watch over" and supervision comes from the Latin words meaning "to see over."

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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