Trend Watch

Trump: 'I Say This With Great Surety'

The word has several meanings, including 'sure knowledge' or 'certainty'

Lookups for surety spiked on May 17, 2017, after President Trump used the word during a speech at the Coast Guard Academy:

Look at the way I've been treated lately. Especially by the media. No politician in history—and I say this with great surety—has been treated worse, or more unfairly. You can't let them get you down. You can't let the critics and the naysayers get in the way of your dreams.

This use of surety (pronounced \SHUR-uh-tee\) sent people to the dictionary. The word has several meanings, including “sure knowledge,” a synonym of certainty, which is the way Trump used it. It is also used to mean “confidence in manner or behavior,” a synonym of assurance. In addition, surety has the specific legal meanings “money that you give as a guarantee that you will do what you are legally required to do (such as to appear in court)” and “someone who agrees to be legally responsible if another person fails to pay a debt or to perform a duty.”

Like most legal terms, surety comes from the French of the Normans who conquered and ruled England in the 11th century; in the subsequent centuries, these words became part of the legal vocabulary of English (jury is another example). Surety comes from sûreté, which derives from the Latin root securitas, itself from the parts se (“without”) and cura (“care”); hence, the root of both security and surety literally means “free from care.”

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

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