Printable Version
Pronunciation: piv-êt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, noun

Meaning: 1. To rotate or cause to rotate around a central point. 2. To be centered on, dependent on. 3. A nonce word to replace "flip-flop, to reverse positions on an issue" in the 2016 US election cycle.

Notes: In the last presidential election cycle (2012) the term for 'pivoting' on an issue in the US corporate media was flip-flop. Changing positions on an issue is considered a bad thing in US politics, especially if circumstances haven't changed or new facts come to light. The adjective for this word is pivotal "most important (for a change), central".

In Play: We seldom meet the basic meaning of this word, such as: "Farmers in the US use gigantic pivoting sprinklers to irrigate their fields." Much more often it is used in the figurative sense: "Mark's interest quickly pivoted from Prudence Pender to Portia Carr when he discovered who was the richer of the two." As for the new, political usage, today is it most closely associated with Donald Trump: "Most pundits expect Trump to pivot on many of his issues he raised in the primaries when the general election rolls around."

Word History: The verb pivot is another instance of what Calvin of the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip called 'verbing', converting a noun to a verb, an activity that appalls many speech purists. English borrowed the noun, again, from Old French pivot "pivot, hinge". Where French got it, no one knows. Someone guessed it was perhaps akin to Catalan piu "pivot", perhaps from piu "chirp" from the creaking sounds made by something turning on a pivot. Others have surmised French picked up the word from Occitan pivèu "shrillness". Who knows? There would seem to be no evidence of this word in any other Indo-European language.

Dr. Goodword,

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