Lookups spiked 17,400% on October 22, 2019
Lynch was among our top lookups on October 22nd, 2019, after President Trump described his impeachment investigation as a “lynching.”
President Donald Trump on Tuesday called House Democrats' impeachment inquiry a "lynching," employing a term associated with the extrajudicial killings of African-Americans while calling on Republicans to aid his political defense.
— Betsy Klein, CNN (cnn.com), 22 Oct. 2019
We define lynch as “to put to death (as by hanging) by mob action without legal approval or permission.” The word comes from the earlier lynch law (“the punishment of presumed crimes or offenses usually by death without due process of law”), which itself comes from the name of either Charles or William Lynch, both of whom were alive in the late 18th century and associated with extrajudicial execution.
Lynch and lynching may occasionally be found used in a figurative or hyperbolic manner (describing a situation in which no one is actually put to death). It has also been used in reference to a president who is, or has been, close to impeachment.
Captain Kangaroo Rodino and his loyal kangaroos did a wonderful job of lynching President Nixon
— Orlando Milano, (letter to editor), Newsday (Long Island, NY), 2 Aug. 1974
Los Angeles Police Chief Ed Davis recently described the Watergate grand jury hearings of aides of former President Richard M. Nixon as “an unconstitutional lynching” in a letter that has been released by the Washington, D.C.-based Coalition to End Grand Jury Abuse.
— Kenneth Reich, Los Angeles Times, 25 Mar. 1974
The fact that a word has been used in a certain manner should not always be interpreted as a sign that doing so is advisable. While it is true that people of many races have been put to death by mobs in a variety of settings and times, lynching has, over the past several hundred years, been primarily constituted of acts of violence against Black Americans. All words change in time, but the cavalier use of such a word as lynch, even in a metaphorical context, still evokes a long and painful history of racist violence.
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.
- The Eponym Quiz Take the quiz
- Liar, Liar Quiz Take the quiz
- Spell It Take the quiz
- Dictionary Devil Play the game