Trend Watch

'The Gravamen Was an Abuse of Power'

'The material or significant part of a grievance or complaint'

Gravamen (“the material or significant part of a grievance or complaint”) spiked 108,667% over the hourly average after FBI Director James Comey used the word in his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee.

Schiff is reading Trump’s wiretapping tweets in order.
What was the gravamen of the offense by Nixon.. in Watergate.
Comey: “As I recall it... the gravamen was an abuse of power, including a break-in...”
Schiff: “It was a break-in of Democratic headquarters, was it not? It also involved a cover-up by the president?’
Comey: Yes.
The Guardian (transcript, House Intelligence panel), 20 Mar. 2017, 11:19AM

Gravamen is rarely found used outside of a legal context. However, the word from which it is descended (the Latin gravis, “heavy”) has given rise to a number of common English words, including gravity, grave (meaning “serious”), and aggravate (the earliest meaning of which in English was “to weigh down, to make heavy”).

Although gravamen is today employed in a secular fashion, when the word first entered our language (at the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries) it was typically used to describe a grievance or complaint in the church.

But the popes traditions doe grant baptisme to bels: and the priests of the papacie do abuse so great a sacrament euery where so wickedly, and vngodlily, that the emperor Maximilian the first wrote a complaint concerning that matter, which is extant among his grauamina or burdenings….
—François Hotman, The Brutish Thunderbolt, 1586

Trend Watch tracks and reports on the words that people are looking up. You can see all the Trend Watch articles here.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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