The Orthodox Union and the Rabbinical Council of America are responsible for the word atop Merriam-Webster Dictionary’s “Trend Watch” tool Monday. The tool tracks popular word lookups on Merriam-Webster’s website and publishes the results in order to provide context about what those words mean.
What was that highest trending word on Monday? That would be “anathema,” a noun which here means “someone or something intensely disliked or loathed.” It was trending because The Orthodox Union and the Rabbinical Council of America, two of the largest associations of American Orthodox rabbis and synagogues in the country, released a joint statement condemning President Trump’s executive order to close America’s border to refugees and people from predominantly Muslim countries.
The statement made it into an Associated Press article on Sunday:
“The Orthodox Union, the largest association for American Orthodox synagogues, acknowledged the complexities of fighting terror, but said ‘discrimination against any group based solely upon religion is wrong and anathema to the great traditions of religious and personal freedoms upon which this country was founded,'” the AP report reads.
According to Merriam-Webster, “anathema” has been in use in English since the early 16th century, when it was adopted from Latin and Greek. In Greek, it used to mean “anything devoted,” but shifted to mean “anything devoted to evil,” specifically in reference to an excommunication or the person who had been excommunicated. By the 17th century, it began to be used in the way it is used today (especially by the Catholic Church), indicating strong negative feelings to a thing, person, or concept, which may be related to religion, or maybe not.
The two Jewish groups were not the only religious groups that condemned the ban, according to the AP. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said it “strongly disagreed” with the sanctions, and the Conservative and Reform movements of Judaism, Church World Service and more than 2,000 other faith leaders voiced their concern over the ban.
This wasn’t the first time the dictionary has weighed in on matters of national politics. Just last week(!) Merriam-Webster tweeted its definition of a fact at Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway after she claimed that White House press secretary Sean Spicer was simply using “alternative facts” to describe the size of Trump’s inauguration crowd.