Word Trends: Syzygy, Psychosomatic, Libertine

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 notable trending words from the week of March 26 to April 1.

Thursday, March 26th
syzygy

Last Saturday, Nigel Hayes, the charismatic forward for the Wisconsin Badgers, went public with his fascination with stenographers and unusual words in an NCAA press conference, and as a result, cattywampus, one of the words he mentioned, spiked in our lookups. In another NCAA press conference on March 26, Hayes gifted the stenographer in the room with the word syzygy. Consequently, syzygy was trending on Dictionary.com. Syzygy is defined as “any two related things, either alike or opposite” or, in astronomy, “an alignment of three celestial objects, as the sun, the earth, and either the moon or a planet.”

Friday, March 27th
pulchritude

Continuing his streak of lexical trendsetting, Hayes sent the word pulchritude to the top of our trending words for Friday when he apologized on Twitter to the aforementioned stenographer for “verbalizing her pulchritude.” This term means “physical beauty.” We’re beginning to wonder if Hayes whiles away the hours scrolling our Word of the Day page. We look forward to seeing what other lexical gems Hayes digs up as March Madness continues!

Saturday, March 28th
psychosomatic
spectre

Psychosomatic was trending on March 28, likely as a result of reports that Andreas Lubitz, the Germanwings co-pilot who crashed a plane into the French Alps on March 24, may have been suffering from a psychosomatic illness. This term means “caused by or notably influenced by emotional factors.” Spectre was also trending, thanks to the release of trailer for the new James Bond movie of that name. Spectre is the British spelling of specter, and the term is defined as “some object or source of terror or dread.”

Sunday, March 29th
libertine
maundy

The word libertine was trending on Sunday; we wonder if it’s linked to an event in Washington DC that made national headlines a few days prior. On March 26, our nation’s capital saw its first-ever legal marijuana seed exchange at a venue called Libertine. We define libertine as “a person who is morally or sexually unrestrained” or “a freethinker in religious matters.” The word maundy was also trending at Dictionary.com. This timely term refers to “the ceremony of washing the feet of the poor, especially commemorating Jesus’ washing of His disciples’ feet on Maundy Thursday.” Maundy Thursday is the Thursday before Easter.

Tuesday, March 31
feticide
incumbent

On March 30, a 33-year-old woman from Indiana named Purvi Patel was sentenced 20 years in prison for feticide and neglect in a case that dates back to July 2013. The following day, feticide was trending in our lookups. Incumbent also spiked, perhaps because on this day Nigeria’s incumbent president, Goodluck Jonathan, conceded the election to his opponent, Muhammadu Buhari. Buhari’s victory marks the first time an incumbent has been defeated in Nigeria.

Wednesday, April 1
prank
gullible

April Fools’ Day had people looking up two sides of the same coin in the words prank and gullible. Our favorite pranks from the day include Petco’s unveiling of a selfie stick for dogs and a faux-academic paper posted in the weekly science journal Nature asserting that dragons are real. What were some of the best pranks you saw on April Fools’?

Did you look up any of these terms? If so, why? Let us know in the comments!

Read last week’s installment to find out why people were looking up booty, tantrum, and desertion.

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