witch-hunt

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English[edit]

Etymology[edit]

  • witch + hunt
  • The verbal noun witch-hunting in the literal sense from 1640, the metaphorical sense from 1932, popularized during the Cold War anti-Communist hysteria in the USA.
The noun witch-hunt itself in the literal sense dates to 1885, in the metaphorical sense to 1938. The sense of a campaign against a single individual dates to 1960 (OED).

Noun[edit]

witch-hunt (plural witch-hunts)

  1. (historical) A search for witches, persons believed to be using sorcery or harmful magic, in order to persecute and typically kill them.
  2. An attempt to find and publicly punish a group of people perceived as a threat, usually on ideological or political grounds.
    • 1938 October 21, George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia:
      Rank-and-file Communists everywhere are led away on a senseless witch-hunt after 'Trotskyists'.
  3. A public smear-campaign against an individual.

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