Trend Watch

'Svengali' Bannon leaving White House

'A person who manipulates or exerts excessive control over another'

Svengali (“a person who manipulates or exerts excessive control over another”) cozened its way to the top of our lookups on August 18th, 2017, following multiple news reports that political strategist Stephen Bannon would soon be fired from his position at the White House.

Trump had been under mounting pressure to dispense with Bannon, who many officials view as a political Svengali but who has drawn scorn as a leading internal force encouraging and amplifying the president’s most controversial nationalist impulses.
—Ashley Parker, Philip Rucker, Robert Costa, and Damian Paletta, The Washington Post, 18 Aug. 2017

In 1894 George du Maurier published his novel, Trilby, which featured a decidedly unpleasant character named Svengali. The following year the name began appear in print used in a figurative manner.

This is the second time this year that Svengali has been among our top lookups while being used in reference to Bannon. The previous instance came at the end of January 2017, after the editorial board of The New York Times used the word in describing him.

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