Donald Trump’s limited vocabulary: Lack of intelligence or sign of genius?

November 29, 2017 5:51 pm

Donald Trump's Limited Vocabulary

Donald Trump has always been a divisive figure, but since announcing his candidacy in the US presidential race, and his subsequent election as President of the United States of America, he has had more critics than ever. The 71-year-old’s campaign was noteworthy for a number of reasons, but one that got the attention of many linguists and language experts was the limited vocabulary he used in speeches and the constant repetition of certain terms.

Many people have noticed the American President’s tendency to repeat the same words over and over again in his speeches and his detractors point to this as representative of a lack of intelligence. However, it can’t be denied that the former businessman and Celebrity Apprentice host’s tactics were successful, eventually leading to victory in the presidential race, and for this reason a seemingly equal number of people believe that his manner of speaking proved to be very effective during his campaign.

Let’s look at both sides of the argument.

Firstly, many critics have compared the President’s way of speaking with that of a young child. His simplistic and often questionable choice of words has led to strong reactions from not only American citizens, but people all around the world. An example of this was his decision to label the perpetrators of the terrorist attack at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester as ‘evil losers’. In addition, he usually opts for very short and simple terms and tends to repeat these words numerous times throughout his speeches.

Certain media outlets have compared recent Trump interviews with TV interviews and appearances from a few decades ago and have concluded that he has become less articulate and is relying on a much smaller vocabulary in recent years, sometimes not even using full sentences. Many people have called his approach immature and lacking in sophistication, while some have even suggested that it is a sign of his brain deteriorating as he gets older.

However, this might not be the case as a lot of people believe that Trump’s speeches deliberately incorporate this style with the aim of both appealing to his main supporters in a way that will resonate with them, as well as emphasising his points through constant repetition and by using memorable words. For example, expressions like ‘tremendous’ and ‘fake news’ have become more popular after being constantly repeated by Donald Trump.

In fact, many of the words regularly used in his speeches have subsequently increased in usage. This is partly due to his followers reiterating his messages, but it must be pointed out that this is also due to his critics re-using certain words as a way of mocking the current President. Whatever your opinion, it’s hard to dispute the results. Whenever anybody criticises his frequent use of words like ‘bad’, ‘loser’ and ‘stupid’, Trump states that America is too politically correct and it’s clear that this is something that many people identify with.

It’s almost impossible to know whether this tendency to stick to a limited number of words is a political tactic or Trump’s natural way of speaking and conducting himself, but one thing’s for sure – The President’s way with words, while not particulary sophisticated, has proven to be very effective over the last few years and we certainly haven’t heard the last of it.

What do you think? Watch this video and judge for yourself



  • Inverse, ‘Trump’s Trashy “77-word” Vocabulary Exemplifies Sly Intelligence’. Available here [accessed on 29/11/17].
  • Vanity Fair, ‘Experts: Trump’s Speaking Style “Raises Questions About His Brain Health”‘. Available here [accessed on 29/11/17].
  • Huffington Post, ‘Trump’s Tremendous Vocabulary’. Available here [accessed on 29/11/17].
  • Your Dictionary, ‘Donald Trump’s 20 most frequently used words’. Available here [accessed on 29/11/17].
  • STAT, ‘Trump wasn’t always so linguistically challenged. What could explain the change?’ Available here [accessed on 29/11/17].
  • You Total Loser: Donald Trump and the power of a small vocabulary.’ Available here [accessed on 29/11/17].

Written by
Liam Kennedy
– Schuman Trainee at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament. Graduate of Journalism with a Language (French) at Dublin Institute of Technology. Completed a Masters in Translation Studies at University College Cork.

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