Merriam-Webster: “Gaslighting” is the Word of The Year


Merriam-Webster says that although the term is not new, it was the most used word in 2022.

The dictionary giant revealed this week “gaslighting” was the word of the year, with online searches of it up 1,740% over last year. 

This could be an indication of the times with these mind-boggling current events.

The term can be a verb, as in: John was gaslighting Mary into thinking she was losing her mind. It can also serve as a noun. As an example: Gaslight used to light up homes in Olden Times.

It is this verb that captivates Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary. The definition is: “To psychologically manipulate (a person), usually over an extended period of time, so that the victim questions the validity of their own thoughts, perception of reality, or memories,  and experiences confusion, loss of confidence and self-esteem, and doubts their own emotional or mental stability.”

That explanation could also explain terms such as “fake news” “deepfake” entering the modern lexicon.

Gaslighting dates back to the 1938 play “Gaslight,”The story tells the tale of a husband determined to make his wife believe that she is mad. He turned down the gaslights in the house, then turned them up. All the while saying that there was nothing wrong.

It was directed by George Cukor in 1944 and starred Charles Boyer, Ingrid Bergman, and Ingrid Bergman. Ingrid Bergman won her first Oscar for her portrayal of the wife suffering from mental illness who believes she is losing it all.

As a way to describe what women feel when their partners are abusive, they isolate them from family and friends. This can lead to a loss of self-confidence and make them feel worthless.

This year “medical gaslighting”was used to refer to doctors who ignore or downplay the psychological and medical symptoms of minorities and women.

Included were the runners-ups in word of the Year “Omicron,” “oligarch,” “cancel culture.”

Searches “oligarch,” for example, jumped 621% as sanctions against Russian billionaire supporters of the Kremlin followed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

However, you should look into the following: “gaslighting”The year ended with a steady increase in the average value, without any spikes due to current events.

“It’s a word that has risen so quickly in the English language, and especially in the last four years, that it actually came as a surprise to me and to many of us,” Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-Webster’s editor at large, told The Associated Press. 

“It was a word we looked up every single day of each year,” he stated.


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