The Words of the Week - June 23

Dictionary lookups from the world of finance, maritime disasters, and the law
statue of the famous roman emperor julius caesar

‘Submersible’ & ‘Implosion’

Submersible and implosion were two of the words that spiked in lookups as a result of the missing underwater tourist craft, now believed to have met with catastrophic failure near the wreck of the Titanic.

All five passengers on missing Titanic submersible dead after catastrophic implosion
— (headline) USA Today, 22 June 2023

When used as a noun, submersible means “something that is capable of being submerged; especially : a usually small underwater craft used especially for deep-sea research.” The word has been in use since the beginning of the 20th century.

An implosion is “the action of imploding,” and to implode means “to burst inward” or “to undergo violent compression.” Implode also has a figurative sense, which is “self-destruct; to break down or fall apart from within.”


The disproportionate quantity of resources dedicated to searching for the five passengers of the submersible, at a time when hundreds of refugees have died in ocean travel, caused the word hypocrisy to spike in lookups.

We define hypocrisy as “the act or practice of pretending to be what one is not or to have principles or beliefs that one does not have,” and we note that it is especially used in cases of “the false assumption of an appearance of virtue or religion.” The word can be traced to the Greek hypokrisis, which is defined as “the act of playing a part on the stage"; the word later took on an extended meaning to refer to the act of wearing a figurative mask and pretending to be someone or something that one was not.


Billionaire has also been in the news a good deal of late, as a result of people who qualify as such taking ill-fated expeditions, challenging each other to fisticuffs, and bequeathing fishing trips to their friends.

Who Is Hamish Harding? All About the British Billionaire Missing on the Titanic Sub
— (headline) People, 21 June 2023

Tech Billionaire Cage Fight? Zuckerberg Asks Musk To Send Location In Response To ‘Cage Match’ Jibe
— (headline) Forbes, 22 June 2023

US justice Samuel Alito defends fishing trip with billionaire Paul Singer
— (headline) Financial Times, 21 June 2023

A billionaire is “one whose wealth is estimated at a billion or more dollars, pounds, or other monetary units.” An interesting tidbit is that we had the word for this thing well before we had any actual billionaires; our earliest citation comes in 1844.

Chewing is eminently democratic, since all chewers are ‘pro hâc vice’ on a perfect equality, and a ‘millionaire;’ or, for that matter, a ‘billionaire,’ if we had him, would not hesitate to take out of his mouth a moiety of his last ‘chew’ and give it to an itinerant Lazarus.
The Knickerbocker, or, New York Monthly Magazine, March 1844


You may have noticed the word Rubicon in recent weeks, as it has been used repeatedly in reference to the criminal investigations of former president Donald Trump.

We have been on the brink. We almost—Nixon was almost indicted. People forget Bill Clinton faced the prospect of indictment and reached a plea deal. But we have never crossed this Rubicon.
— Ruth Marcus (transcript), PBS News Hour, 9 June 2023

Rubicon is defined as “a bounding or limiting line, especially one that when crossed commits a person irrevocably.” The word (which is capitalized) comes from Roman history: in 49 B.C., Julius Caesar led his army to the banks of a small river that marked the boundary between Italy and Gaul; the river was named, unsurprisingly, the Rubicon. Caesar knew that Roman law forbade a general from leading his army out of the province to which he was assigned. By crossing the Rubicon, he would violate that law. “The die is cast,” he said, wading in. Rubicon has been used in English as the name of a significant figurative boundary since at least the early 1600s. If you are interested in using this word while retaining some degree of historical accuracy, you may wish to avoid saying that the Rubicon has been crossed repeatedly, as Caesar only needed to cross it once to show his defiance.

Words Worth Knowing: ‘Gigman’

Our word worth knowing this week is gigman, defined in our 1934 New International Dictionary as “one who worships smug respectability as the great object of life.” The gig portion of this word refers to a kind of vehicle now not in use: “a light carriage that has one pair of wheels and is drawn by one horse.”