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US election word of the week: presumptive nominee

 © PhotoDiscIn this series we are looking at some of the language and terminology associated with the US electoral process in the run-up to the Presidential election in late 2016. This week’s word is presumptive nominee.

Having passed the threshold of 1237 delegates he needs to win the Republican nomination, Donald Trump is now the party’s presumptive nominee, although his status will have to be formally confirmed at the party Convention in July.



Presumptive is not a very common adjective, and collocates with a very restricted range of nouns. Outside the US political context it  is most frequently found in combination with the word heir, when it means one whose claim may be set aside if another heir is born who has a stronger claim. The term contrasts with heir apparent, an heir whose claim cannot be superseded by that of another person. Presumptive is one of those highly unusual adjectives, like designate and apparent, that can come after the noun it modifies, though only when it modifies heir; unlike the other two it can also be found in front of a noun, although it prefers the posterior position.

Look out for the next post in this series. You can find past posts on the language of American politics here and here, or search for other posts in this series using the tag US politics.

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Liz Potter

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