Exculpate, Mockumentary, Burpless, And Other Words That Trended On This Past Week

Chicago Tribune / Netflix / Allyson Riggs

It’s time for another roundup of the words that got our trending word ticker atop our homepage ticking this past week.

In this batch, we offer a “stirring” mix of 10 terms that trended (i.e., significantly increased by percentage measured against searches on the the previous day).

We begin with our top three lookups. Then, we’ll highlight some words that are notable due to the news of the day—or just because they are nifty words to expand your vocabulary.


Our top trending search term was bestirred, which stirred up searches 232,000% on July 20 compared to the previous day.

Bestirred is the past tense and participle of bestir, which means “to stir up, rouse to action.” Stir is clear enough, but what about be? It’s a prefix English formerly added to verbs to various effect, seen in words ranging from become to besiege. In bestir, be- has the sense of “around.”



Not Detroit. (What up doe?!)

Not outroit whatever that might be.


Search interest in this ecclesiastical term (and second-most top lookup) rose 63,400% on July 24. In the Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran Churches, an introit refers to “a type of song (as a psalm) sung at the beginning of a service.”

Introit looks like Detroit, Michigan’s biggest city and automotive hub, and both words do come into English from French, but they come from different Latin roots.


Postmillenarianism is another form of postmillennialismwhich doesn’t concern life after avocado toast. Like introit, this word, which surged 56,600% in searches on July 24, is a religious term.

Postmillenarianism is “the doctrine or belief that the second coming of Christ will follow the millennium.” Post-, here, means “after,” and a millennium is “a period of a thousand years.” Among some Christians, this is a period when Jesus Christ will usher in a reign of peace on Earth with an upheaval of the existing order.


Exculpate was in the lexical hot seat after Robert Mueller testified before Congress about the findings of his special investigation in Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. He said his report does not exculpate President Trump. That is, his findings did not “clear” Trump “from a charge of guilt or from blame.”

Lookups for exculpate surged 25,796% on July 24. The word ultimately comes from Latin roots ex (“out of, from”) and culpa, “blame.” And yes, you can inculpate someone, or “charge with fault, accuse” them.

Other words that trended on thanks to Mueller’s testimony included purview (“the range of operation, authority, control, etc.) and loquacious (“talkative”), among others.


On July 18, searches for animalculum climbed up 10,800%. An animalculum is a variant of animalcule. That’s not a type of molecule, but it is an animal so tiny you can’t see it with the naked eye. The –cule is a diminutive suffix.

What types of animals qualify as an animalculum? The infusorian and rotifertwo names that give us even more occasion to consult the dictionary.


Let’s say you looked up a word like animalculum and deduced its meaning, based on your personal experience with words and their parts and histories. We could say that skill—and how very impressive it is, indeed—was “self-taught.”

Well, autodidacticism is “the process or practice of learning a subject without a teacher or formal education.” If we break apart this word formed from Greek roots, auto– means “self,” didactic means (at its etymological core) “instructive,” and ism denotes, here, “practice.”


It’s exactly what you think it means, “without a burp” or “without burping”—it’s just not a word you think of existing. Something out there, apparently, gave burpless a lot of gas on our site, as it trended up in search interest 9,000% on July 23.

We’re the dictionary, and even we are at loss for why you might need to point out when something didn’t happen with a burp. Perhaps: the baby had a burpless feeding or Johnny ate his food quickly, so we had to remind him to remain burpless when company was over. Just some thoughts.



Speaking of appetites, this term—which our ticker showed trended in lookups nearly 9,200% on July 22—is a great vocab booster. From Latin, esurient means “hungry” or “greedy.” The word is typically used for literary or humorous effect, as in The esurient trick-or-treaters insisted on knocking on every door in the quest for candy.


Toxophilite sounds like a chemical hazard, doesn’t it? This is one word (up 3,160% on July 19) where your immediate word associations may lead you astray.

A toxophilite is a “devotee to archery, an archer.” It was coined in 1545 by Roger Ascham for the title of his book about archery, Toxophilus, influential in its day as a showcase of how English, rather than Latin, can be used as vehicle for instruction. He meant it as “Lover of the Bow.”

The suffix phile is from Greek and means “lover of, enthusiast,” as bibliophile loves books. The toxo part of toxophilite is also from Greek, whose tóxon means “bow,” as in “bow and arrow.”

Now, you’re right to associate toxophilite with toxic, it’s just the connection that is surprising—and pretty fascinating. That’s because toxic also comes from the Greek tóxon, which goes back to a Greek expression toxikòn phármakon, referring to arrow bows that were smeared with poison.


A mockumentary is a blend of mock (as in “feigned, not real”) and documentary, “a movie or TV show depicting fictional events but presented as a documentary.” It’s older than you may think, going back to the 1960s.

On July 24, mockumentary trended up 1,700%, apparently thanks to news about Frankenstein’s Monster’s Monster, Frankenstein, a short film starring the man behind everyone’s favorite dad bod du jour, David Harbour, of Stranger Things fame.

We like Frankenstein’s Monster’s Monster, Frankenstein not only for prompting interest in mockumentary, but because of the grammatical—and literary—joke of its title. Get it? (It took us minute, too.)


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