I was drawn to the word, “pre-spin” in the following passage in New York Times’ (October 9) article that came under the title, “From Donald Trump, hints of a campaign exit strategy”:

“Stuart Stevens, who was the chief strategist to Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential race, also doubts that Mr. Trump will stay in over the long haul. “Trump’s the only person that pre-spun his exit — it’s rather remarkable,” said Mr. Stevens.”

Though I take “pre-spin” for “preplan” or “preconceive,” I don’t think I've ever heard this word.

Google NGram shows that the word emerged around or in 1960, and its currency has rapidly increased since the mid-1990s, up to 0.0000001456% in 2000, but neither Cambridge Online Dictionaries nor Oxford Online Dictionaries includes "pre-spin."

Is the word “pre-spin” used commonly today among Anglo-Americans, or still its usage is limited to politics and journalism?

By the way, we have the similar expression to 'pre-spin' in Japanese - 事前に織り込む, whose literal translation is 'weave into the thought in advance'.

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    No, it's not common. It's more a nonce word. I would say that the intended meaning of 'pre-spin' is 'to put a spin on things before things have even occurred' which sounds similar to your Japanese phrase but is not a common concept in English.
    – Mitch
    Oct 10, 2015 at 0:12
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    Using a common prefix such as "pre-" does not require that the entire prefixed word be "common" to be a legitimate use, even in fairly picky circumstances. Understanding the nuanced meaning, though, requires an understanding of "spin" in this sense, and political "spin" is a complicated thing.
    – Hot Licks
    Oct 10, 2015 at 1:45

1 Answer 1


The verb spin normally refers to attempting to frame an event (or in many cases, a blunder) in a way that puts the person on whose behalf the spinning is done in the best possible light. Thus, after a political debate, various operatives for each candidate are on hand to provide instant analyses of why their candidate won the debate—or at least didn't perform as dismally as the untrained observer might have concluded from watching the event itself.

Merriam-Webster's Eleventh Collegiate Dictionary (2003) defines the transitive verb spin (used in this sense) as follows:

spin ... vt ... 7 : to present (information) with a particular spin [where spin as a noun means "a special point of view, emphasis, or interpretation presented for the purpose of influencing opinion"]

But the notion that—at a time when the negative outcome seems not at all inevitable—someone might already be framing a negative event that may befall the candidate in the best possible light for the candidate is unusual. And the author of the New York Times article is characterizing this effort as pre-spinning.

Something like pre-spinning happens when a candidate expects not to do well in some venue (the Iowa primary, for example) and tries to reduce the harm from a bad showing by claiming not to expect to win there and instead to be concentrating on some other goal elsewhere. But I haven't seen the verb pre-spin in use often (if ever) before this instance.

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    I'm pretty sure I've seen "pre-spin" (or a variant) used a handful of times over the past half-dozen years. It's not common, but with "spin control" becoming more and more of a professional vocation it likely will become more common.
    – Hot Licks
    Oct 10, 2015 at 1:55

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