Pour, Pore, And Other Trending Words On Dictionary.com

We pored over the data this week of June 29–July 6, 2018, and we got a good look at what words you learned from the news. Whether it was a presidential grammar mistake or an HBO show host’s foray into teen speak, here’s what made folks curious.

Ontogeny and phylogeny

Paris Hilton tried to stump the internet this week, asking Twitter users to tell her something she didn’t know. It was CNN host Jake Tapper’s response to Hilton that caused more than a few Twitter fans to ask Dictionary.com to help translate his addition: “Ontogeny does NOT, in fact, recapitulate phylogeny.” Others went directly to our search box, sending searches for ontogeny up a whopping 8,288%, while queries for the meaning of phylogeny climbed a more modest 950%.

So what did he mean? Well, ontogeny refers to “the development or developmental history of an individual organism,” while phylogeny means “the development or evolution of a particular group of organisms.” Spot the difference?

Je ne sais quoi

Ooh, la, la. The French National soccer team has been on fire this week, thanks in no small part to Kylian Mbappe, the Paris Saint-Germain pro who became the youngest French player ever to score a World Cup goal this year at age 19 years (and 183 days—yes it matters!) old. Mbappe has pledged his earnings from playing in the world tournament to a charity that will provide athletic programs to kids with disabilities, so is it any wonder he helped spike searches 176% for je ne sais quoi during the French match against Argentina. Borrowed from French, the phrase means “an indefinable, elusive quality, especially a pleasing one.” Mbappe has that je ne sais quoi, wouldn’t you say?

For more World Cup madness, check out our guide to words on the pitch


If you’ve known what on fleek has meant for a few years now, congratulations. But, HBO show host John Oliver introduced the four-year-old term to a whole new audience during his Sunday show, at least by the looks of searches. Queries of the meaning of fleek were up  583% after Oliver poked fun at Donald Trump Jr.’s assertion that Justice Kennedy’s retirement was “lit,” noting that the news of a Supreme Court justice leaving the bench was “neither lit, nor on fleek, nor was it three fire emojis.” 


The New York Times opinion columnist Adam Liptak put cudgel on the trending list this week, thanks to a column titled “Weaponizing the First Amendment: How Free Speech Became a Conservative Cudgel.” At least, that was the headline shared by the Times on Twitter, however it no longer appears on the article itself. So … what does the word mean? A cudgel is “a short, thick stick used as a weapon; club.”


If the July 4th holiday had you grabbing a brewski and screaming wassup at your friends, maybe you’re the reason searches for wassup climbed 25%. The greeting is a pronunciation alteration of what’s up that may be best known as a way Budweiser fans greeted each other back in the ’90s. So … wassup with you? 

Pour and pore

The tweet was quickly deleted, however on Wednesday afternoon, the president of the United States (yes, it’s a lower case p in this case) told the world that he’s written “many best selling [sic] books” and finds it problematic that folks “pour over” his tweets on the hunt for mistakes.

Spotting a problem? You’re not alone. Searches for the difference between pour and pore went wild on Dictionary.com, with hits on pore up 1,266%, and pour up 488%.

So, what is the difference? Pore means “to read or study with great attention,” as one might do to tweets riddled with poor grammar. When you pour something, on the other hand, you “send it flowing or falling”, as you might do with your tea or covfefe, er, coffee.


An assertion by InfoWars‘ Alex Jones that American liberals were planning a “second civil war” on July 4th sent folks to Twitter this week to pen their own letters from the front, using the hashtag #SecondCivilWarLetters (check out Dictionary.com’s missive to Mom and Dad!). It also helped boost searches for some Civil War era terms. Munitions took the biggest hit with a 375% leap. The word means “materials used in war, especially weapons and ammunition.”

Hungry for more words? Find out what made civility, pushback, and a certain white supremacist code phrase trend last month.

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