Trump Tweets, We Define: 'Beleaguered'

'Being subjected to constant or repeated trouble or harassment'


Beleaguered was among our top lookups on July 24th, 2017, after the word had a starring role in a Donald Trump tweet.

We frequently find that common words will spike dramatically in lookups, indicating that many people are turning to a dictionary for information in addition to a simple definition. This does not appear to be the case for beleaguered; the word, while not terribly obscure, is uncommon enough to necessitate a refresher definition for many people.

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Photo: Michael Vadon

Donald Trump thanks Pennsylvania.

Our definition for beleaguered is "suffering or being subjected to constant or repeated trouble or harassment." The word has been in use as an adjective since the early 17th century, at least, when it may be found in a printed sermon given by King Henry.

Or when they cut off the convoies & block vp a beleaguered towne, so that it cannot take in, new prouisions....
—Henry King, Two Sermons, 1625

The adjectival use of beleaguered followed the use of the same word as a verb. Beleaguer (the verb) came into English in the 16th century, taken from the Dutch word belegeren. Although the earliest recorded uses of beleaguer are employing the word in a military sense ("to surround with an army so as to prevent escape") the word is found at almost the exact same time used in a fairly figurative sense ("to harass").



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