Trend Watch

Trump: 'Single Greatest Witch Hunt'

Lookups spiked after Trump used the word in a tweet

Witch hunt bedeviled and charmed its way to the top of our lookups on May 18th, 2017, after the word made an appearance in a tweet by Donald Trump.

Trump has used the term at other points in the recent past, and it spiked at the end of March of this year, after he referred to a congressional investigation into his presidential campaign as a witch hunt.

Witch hunt has both a literal meaning and a figurative one. The literal one refers to the actual hunting of ostensible witches. Considering that much of these persecutions were done hundreds of years ago the word has a curiously recent record of use, beginning to be used in the late 19th century.

But, Sirs, if I might only dare suggest
One sport peculiar, and to high taste suited,
And one in Ancient English custom rooted,
I’d name to ye a witch-hunt as the best.
Tamworth Herald (Tamworth, Eng.), 28 Dec. 1878

The figurative sense, which we define as “the searching out and deliberate harassment of those (such as political opponents) with unpopular views,” has been in use with specific reference to political opponents since the 1920s.

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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