Trending: โ€˜disinfectantโ€™

Lookups spiked 41,000% on April 24, 2020

Why are people looking up disinfectant?

Disinfectant topped our lookups on April 24, 2020, after President Trump, during his daily press briefing on Thursday, April 23, said:

And then I see the disinfectant. Where it knocks it out. In a minute. One minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, ah, by, injection inside, or, or, almost a cleaning. 'Cause you see it gets in the lungs, and it does a tremendous number on the lungs so it would be interesting to check that.

What does disinfectant mean?

disinfectant : an agent that frees from infection

especially : a chemical that destroys vegetative forms of harmful microorganisms (such as bacteria and fungi) especially on inanimate objects but that may be less effective in destroying spores

Where does disinfectant come from?

The word disinfectant, like disinfect and sanitize, dates to the mid-1800s, the period when medical science established that clean surgical conditions led to fewer infections.

The verb infect, in use since the 1300s, comes from the Latin word infectus, which is the past participle of inficere, meaning "to stain, dye, taint, or infect."

Disinfectant, like many words that end in -ant in English, took a path through French. The -ant ending is the way that the present participle is formed in French, corresponding to the -ing ending in English, so disinfectant (which sometimes has been used as an adjective) is literally a word that means disinfecting.

What is notable about this use of disinfectant?

In the context of a contagious pandemic, the words sanitize and disinfect are frequently used, very often as synonyms. Guidelines from the EPA make it clear that disinfectants kill more germs than sanitizers; killing germs by chemical means is the function of these products. They are not described as medicine.


The Council of Health at Paris adopted the plan; and the Prefect of Police caused all the bodies deposited at the Morgue, to be conserved by the application of M. Labarraqueโ€™s disinfectants.
โ€” The London Magazine, Feb. 1827

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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