Trending: β€˜de minimis’

Lookups spiked 15,000% on April 17, 2020

Why are people looking up de minimis?

New York governor Andrew Cuomo, when discussing the coronavirus pandemic in a briefing, caused a spike in lookups on April 17, 2020, as he used a term more familiar to lawyers and legal scholars than to most people:

You have many states where the infection rate is de minimis. That obviously doesn’t include New York.

What does de minimis mean?

De minimis means "lacking significance or importance" or "so minor as to merit disregard."

Where does de minimis come from?

De minimis is one of the many terms of legalese that not only derive from Latin, but are used in English with the Latin spelling intact, like pro bono, habeas corpus, in re, and ex post facto.

Some others also include de, such as de facto ("actual") and de jure ("based on laws"). De minimis is not as common in general language as these others, but lawyers (Gov. Cuomo has a law degree) would be very familiar with the term.

De minimis is a shortened form of the Latin phrase de minimis non curat lex, meaning "the law does not concern itself with petty matters."

In court cases, an action may be dismissed if the claim or cause is considered de minimis.

Citations

As to the second part, to post-pone, the trial of the claim out in severall Counties, to the time of the trial designed for the last County: This will be a sole expedient to prevent surprizes in hearing (no small fate to the English Defendant) and of no prejudice to the Irish Claimant; or if so, it were de minimis, which, in so comprehensive a Settlement is not regarded.
β€” Audley Mervyn, The speech of Sir Audley Mervyn, knight, His Majesties prime Serjeant at Law, and speaker of the House of Commons in Ireland delivered to His Grace James Duke of Ormond, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, 1662

Trend Watch is a data-driven report on words people are looking up at much higher search rates than normal. While most trends can be traced back to the news or popular culture, our focus is on the lookup data rather than the events themselves.

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