Messianic: The word is spiking at Merriam-Webster after the Israeli defense minister used it to describe Secretary of State John Kerry.

Why Is Messianic Spiking at Merriam-Webster?

Lexicon Valley
A Blog About Language
Jan. 17 2014 3:32 PM

Why Is Messianic Spiking at Merriam-Webster?

Does this look like a man with "messianic fervor"?

Photo by PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images

What: Messianic.

When: Lookups spiked on January 14, 2014.


Why: Speaking in private about Secretary of State John Kerry's efforts to continue Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, as reported in the newspaper Yedioth Ahronot, said:

American Secretary of State John Kerry, who turned up here determined and acting out of misplaced obsession and messianic fervor, cannot teach me anything about the conflict with the Palestinians.

Messianic, which means "marked by idealism and an aggressive crusading spirit," does not suggest a sense of realism, a trait usually associated with effective diplomacy. The minister later apologized for his remarks.

Where: Messianic is derived from Messiah, a word used in the Jewish and Christian scriptures to refer to a God-sent savior. Messiah, in turn, comes from the Hebrew and Aramaic words meaning "anointed" (i.e. "chosen by or as if by divine election.").

See what else has been spiking at Merriam-Webster.

Peter Sokolowski is Editor-at-Large at Merriam-Webster.

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