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Information For The Media

11 November 2016 /

The US Election in 24 hours of words

When the polls opened on November 8, and American voters turned out to cast their votes for their next president, people around the world consulted the Cambridge Dictionary for the meanings of unfamiliar words. Over 24 hours, the Cambridge Dictionary team tracked the words that were most frequently searched for. All of the words in this article that are linked to definitions in the dictionary were looked up with unusual frequency on 8-9 November. The full list is at the end of this post.

With no actual results to report until the evening when the polls closed, the media focused on explaining the US electoral system and whether it could really be rigged, as Republican Party candidate and now President-elect, Donald Trump claimed. And they turned their attention to the exit polls, which revealed not only voters’ perceptions of the integrity of the candidates, but also their feelings about the election itself. Voters may have been split almost 50-50 in their support of Mr. Trump or of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party candidate, but 72% of them reported feeling anxious.

As the polls began to close and the results began to be announced, users of the Cambridge Dictionary looked up phrases used to describe a race in which first one and then the other candidate seems to be winning. With the two candidates neck and neck in Florida, the race was described as a toss-up. Later on, when the results of the bellwether state Ohio came in, Democrats began to fear that they were doomed.

Meanwhile, as it became more likely that the US was on the verge of a Trump presidency, the media reported spooked financial markets and plunging stocks.

surge in votes for Secretary Clinton as the polls in the western states closed, and late reporting from key states where the race was very tight, meant the night continued to be a nail-biter. But in the early hours of November 9, Secretary Clinton conceded the presidential race to Mr. Trump – a result that was stunning for supporters of both candidates. Democrats are reeling from the stunning defeat, and Republicans have goosebumps from the stunning triumph.

Now, the media, the American people and lookers-on from around the world are waiting to see the implications for the country.

Jessica Rundell, Dictionary Editor, at Cambridge University Press said: “It is fascinating to see how this election influenced the searches in the Cambridge Dictionary. Major world events often see a shift in the words looked up in our dictionary, and increased frequency in searches for words like nail-biter and bellwether indicates just how unpredictable this result was.”

Cambridge University Press has been publishing dictionaries for learners of English since 1995. Cambridge Dictionaries Online began offering these dictionaries completely free of charge in 1999 — and today Cambridge Dictionary is still growing.

Notes to editors

For further information please contact Louisa Ackermann via lackermann@cambridge.org

Full list
Here is the list of words looked up most frequently in the Cambridge Dictionary, in rough order of when they were being looked up between November 8 and November 9, 2016.

electoral
precinct
senate
incumbent
poll
cast
issue
sophisticated
anticipate
turn out
campaign
endorsement
impeach
rig
toss-up
appeal
engage
perception
prejudice
concern
sarcasm
enthusiasm
pitch
integrity
anxious
bellwether
awesome
neck and neck
projected
nail-biter
down to the wire
doomed
evaluate
severe
impact
plunge
tumble
spook
surge
spectacular
on the verge of
stunning
reel
crush
address
triumph
concession
concede
goosebumps
implication
bigot

About Cambridge University Press
Cambridge University Press is part of the University of Cambridge. It furthers the University's mission by disseminating knowledge in the pursuit of education, learning and research at the highest international levels of excellence.

Its extensive peer-reviewed publishing lists comprise 50,000 titles covering academic research and professional development, as well as school-level education and English language teaching.

Playing a leading role in today's international marketplace, Cambridge University Press has more than 50 offices around the globe, and it distributes its products to nearly every country in the world. For further information, go to www.cambridge.org.

 

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