Word Trends: Ninnyhammer, Cyclone, Scion

Some words, such as affectmetaphor, and irony, hold relatively steady in lookups at Dictionary.com regardless of what’s happening in pop culture, politics, or social media. Other words shift wildly in rank and volume, often as a ripple effect of a news item or event that has piqued people’s curiosity—we call those trending words. Here are few of our favorite trending words from the week of March 12–18.

Friday, March 13
triskaidekaphobia

Superstition reigned supreme on Friday (the 13th) as lookups for triskaidekaphobia skyrocketed. This seven-syllable tongue twister means “fear or a phobia concerning the number 13.”

Saturday, March 14
e = mc2
cyclone
archipelago

Saturday was the mathematician’s ultimate holiday, marking both Pi Day and the birthday of Albert Einstein. Our trending lookups for that day reflect the latter. E = mc2, the equation concerning special relativity developed by the German-born physicist, was among our top terms. The words cyclone and archipelago were also trending, surely as a result of Cyclone Pam touching down in the South Pacific nation of Vanuatu on March 13.

Sunday, March 15
ides
scion

March 15 marks the inauspicious anniversary of the assassination of Julius Caesar, also known as the Ides of March. The word ides means simply the fifteenth day of March, May, July, or October, and the thirteenth day of the other months. In addition to ides, people were also curious about the term scion. We’re not sure what drove this one, but one scion, defined as “descendent or heir,” has been making a lot of headlines lately. Robert Durst, a New York-based real estate scion, was arrested on Saturday in connection with a murder from 2000. On Sunday, HBO aired the last episode of a documentary called The Jinx of which Durst is the subject.

Tuesday, March 17
begorrah/begorra
shillelagh
ninnyhammer

People had Irish terms on the brain on St. Patrick’s Day; begorrah and shillelah both saw spikes in interest. Begorrah (also spelled and trending as begorra) is a euphemistic interjection equivalent to “by God,” as in It’s a fine day, begorrah, and shillelagh is a term used in Ireland for a cudgel or club. Unrelated to St. Patrick’s Day (we presume), ninnyhammer was trending. This term means “fool or simpleton.” Perhaps St. Patrick’s Day brings out the ninnyhammer in all of us.

Wednesday, March 18
satyric

On Wednesday we saw a surge or interest in the word satyric, an adjective form of the word satyr. In classical mythology, a satyr is one of a class of woodland deities who are part human, part horse, and sometimes part goat. We wonder if the sudden interest had anything to do with the fact that a Warhol print called Satyric Festival Song, named for the dance piece that was created and originally performed by the world-renowned choreographer and dancer Martha Graham, was featured in an auction at Sotheby’s London on March 17.

Did you look up any of these terms? Do you have any theories as to why these terms were trending? Let us know in the comments!

Earlier in March people were looking up clishmaclaverfracas, and acerbic. Find out why!

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