Indict and indictment both were among our top lookups on June 30th through July 1st, 2021, following reports that the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer had been subjected to this verb, and the recipients of this noun.
Grand jury indicts Trump Organization and its CFO - The indictments against the company and its chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, will remain sealed until Thursday.
— (headline) The Washington Post, 30 Jun. 2021
Our legal definition of indict is “to charge with a crime by the finding or presentment of a grand jury in due form of law’; the word may also be used in a general sense, with the meaning of “to charge with a fault or offense, to criticize or accuse.” The definitions of indictment include “a formal written statement framed by a prosecuting authority and found by a grand jury that charges a person or persons with an offense,” “the action or the legal process of indicting,” and “an expression of strong disapproval.”
Both words tend to spike in lookups during the initial stages of high profile legal cases. In some cases, as with Paul Manafort in 2017, it is the result of someone having been indicted. In other cases, as with Darren Wilson in 2014, it is the result of someone not being indicted. Indict comes from the Anglo-French enditer (meaning “to write, point out, indict”); for the first several hundred years the word was in English use it had a spelling, endite, that reflected this etymology (and is why we pronounce the word as \in-DYTE).
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.