For the past year or so, many of us native speakers have noticed that Donald Trump uses the word bigly quite frequently. As a matter of fact, it became one of the most frequently looked up words in English dictionaries in the year 2016. And much to the surprise of many of us, the word does exist. Bigly is an adverb that came from the adjective big.
We thought we heard Mr. Trump say he wanted to cut taxes bigly, he would deport illegal immigrants bigly, Iran is taking over Iraq bigly, he would win bigly, and so on. If nothing else, most of us feel we learned a word.
But then American phoneticians decided to analysize his voice. And guess what? He wasn’t saying bigly at all! See for yourself in this phonetic analysis of his voice. He was saying big league!
The whole country was surprised. Big league is an old baseball expression that has been used in non-baseball English since the late 1800s, along with a lot of other baseball expressions. Mr. Trump doesn’t usually use big league as meaning “in the upper echelons of,” or “belonging to the dominant or most important group,” which are the traditional uses. He uses big league figuratively as a synonym for greatly, highly or hugely. So don’t ever get discouraged if you don’t understand every word a native speaker says, neither do we.
BIGLY – BIG LEAGUE