The US election in 24 hours of words

Catherine Lane/iStock/Getty
Catherine Lane/iStock/Getty

November 8, 2016, marked the end of one of the most eventful presidential election campaigns in United States history. People across the globe watched closely as American voters turned out to cast their votes for their next president – including the millions of people who use the Cambridge Dictionary to help them understand the language used in the English-speaking media.

The Cambridge Dictionary staff tracked the words that were looked up most frequently in the 24 hours from when the polls opened the morning of November 8 until the morning of November 9. All of the words in this blog post that are linked to definitions in the dictionary were looked up with unusual frequency. 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 the Republican Party candidate, 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 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 are talking about the implications for the country.


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
enthusiasm
pitch
integrity
anxious
bellwether
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

6 thoughts on “The US election in 24 hours of words

  1. Pingback: Election-related vocabulary – Fernanda Maria Mendes Navarro

  2. Pingback: The US election in 24 hours of words – Cambridge Dictionary About words blog (Nov 10, 2016) | Editorial Words

  3. hits

    Thank you for the informative post.
    The link for ‘implications’ of ‘… about the implications for the country.’ looks incorrect.
    It takes me to the word ‘triumph’.

  4. Pingback: Cambridge Dictionary’s Word of the Year 2016 – About Words – Cambridge Dictionaries Online blog

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