What is a ‘Dotard’?

Updated 10:42 AM EDT, Sat September 23, 2017
Now playing
00:57
What exactly is a 'dotard'?
Nicolas Asfouri/Pool/Getty Images/AFP PHOTO/KCNA VIA KNS
Now playing
01:27
North, South Korean leaders to meet again
Airbus Defense and Space
Now playing
01:44
New images show N. Korea dismantling test site
CNNI
Now playing
00:40
Pompeo dismisses N. Korea's 'gangster' comments
SINGAPORE - JUNE 12: In this handout photo, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un shakes hands with U.S. President Donald Trump during their historic U.S.-DPRK summit at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island on June 12, 2018 in Singapore. U.S. President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un held the historic meeting between leaders of both countries on Tuesday morning in Singapore, carrying hopes to end decades of hostility and the threat of North Korea's nuclear program. (Photo by Kevin Lim/THE STRAITS TIMES/Handout/Getty Images)
Handout/Getty Images AsiaPac/Getty Images
SINGAPORE - JUNE 12: In this handout photo, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un shakes hands with U.S. President Donald Trump during their historic U.S.-DPRK summit at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island on June 12, 2018 in Singapore. U.S. President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un held the historic meeting between leaders of both countries on Tuesday morning in Singapore, carrying hopes to end decades of hostility and the threat of North Korea's nuclear program. (Photo by Kevin Lim/THE STRAITS TIMES/Handout/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:56
Kim Jong Un snubbed Mike Pompeo, source says
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 09:  National Security Adviser John Bolton speaks on a morning television show from the grounds of the White House, on May 9, 2018 in Washington, DC. Yesterday President Donald Trump announced that America was withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal.  (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 09: National Security Adviser John Bolton speaks on a morning television show from the grounds of the White House, on May 9, 2018 in Washington, DC. Yesterday President Donald Trump announced that America was withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:34
Bolton: US has plan for denuclearizing N. Korea
Planet Labs Inc.
Now playing
01:25
Satellite images show missile plant construction
CNN
Now playing
01:14
Susan Rice: Kim Jong Un beat Trump at summit
Images of the Norrth Korea missile launch on November 28 taken from Rodong Sinmun, North Korea's official newspaper.
From Rodong Sinmun
Images of the Norrth Korea missile launch on November 28 taken from Rodong Sinmun, North Korea's official newspaper.
Now playing
02:14
Will North Korea restart nuclear tests?
Photo Illustration/Getty Images
Now playing
03:00
Will Kim Jong Un ever give up his nukes?
Photo Illustration/Getty Images
Now playing
02:27
What's bringing Kim Jong Un to the table
Now playing
01:51
Who is Kim Jong Un?
CNN
Now playing
01:43
Connolly: Trump comment on Kim 'jaw-dropping'
Now playing
02:31
Moon: The masterful dealmaker
Trump Kim Jong Un comment 04240218
CNN
Trump Kim Jong Un comment 04240218
Now playing
01:26
Trump: Kim Jong Un very open and honorable
Now playing
03:06
Finding art on the edge of the DMZ
(CNN) —  

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had some choice words for US President Donald Trump Friday, accusing the American leader of “mentally deranged behavior.”

But it was Kim’s use of the term “dotard,” that has set the internet alight. While not widely used today, the insult is centuries old, appearing in medieval literature from the ninth century.

Searches for the term have spiked in the wake of Kim’s address, according to dictionary Merriam-Webster, which defines the term as referring to “a state or period of senile decay marked by decline of mental poise.”

Kim, of course, did not say the word – he was speaking in Korean. “Dotard” was the official English translation provided by state news agency KCNA for the Korean “늙다리미치광이” (“neulg-dali-michigwang-i”), which literally translates as “old lunatic.”

Later in the KCNA translation of Kim’s address, the North Korean leader advises Trump to “exercise prudence in selecting words,” something the news agency seems to have taken to heart.

“Action is the best option in treating the dotard who, hard of hearing, is uttering only what he wants to say,” was the full translation given of Kim’s quote.

What’s in a word?

While the term dotard is not familiar to most English speakers today, as evidenced by the flurry of people searching for definitions of it, it has a prestigious literary history.

According to Merriam Webster, dotard comes from the Middle English word “doten” (“to dote”), and “initially had the meaning of ‘imbecile’ when it began being used in the 14th century.”

In “Shakespeare’s Insults: A Pragmatic Dictionary,” Nathalie Vienne-Guerrin gives several examples of the playwright’s fondness for the term. In “Taming of the Shrew,” Baptista, tricked by his children and frustrated with Vincentio, commands “Away with the dotard; to jail with him.”

Leonato defends himself against Claudio in “Much Ado About Nothing,” telling the young soldier: “Tush, tush, man, never fleer and jest at me. I speak not like a dotard nor a fool.”

Reflecting its fall from common usage, according to SparkNotes, in modern versions of both texts the term becomes “doddering old fool.”