Trend Watch

White House: Conway Acted 'Without Nefarious Motive'

'Flagrantly wicked or impious'

Nefarious (“flagrantly wicked or impious”) spiked dramatically on March 1st, 2017, on the heels of a declaration by the White House that Kellyanne Conway had acted “without nefarious motive” when exhorting the public to purchase Ivanka Trump’s goods.

The word comes from the Latin nefarius (“wicked”), which may be itself traced back to the Latin ne- (“not”) and fas (“right”). There are a handful of words in English of similar parentage, such as nefandous (“unfit to be spoken of”).

Nefarious has been in use in English since the middle of the 16th century, with our earliest evidence of use coming from 1566:

Lactantius also in hys sixt booke wryteth, that there be three kindes of Vertues. Wherof the first is to refraine euill factes & nefarious workes: the seconde is to tye thy tongue from sclaundering, backbyting and obserious talking, the thirde is, to expell all euill, wicked, and malicious cogitations, thoughtes and premeditations from out thy minde.
The Gouernement of All Estates, 1566

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