Merriam-Webster’s word of 2022 named as ‘gaslighting’

“Gaslighting” is Merriam-Webster’s word of the year – and you can believe this.

In its top word of 2022, the online dictionary chose “gaslighting,” which means “the act or practice of grossly misleading someone especially for one’s own advantage,” because it has become a “favored word for the perception of deception.”

The purpose of gaslighting someone is often to trick them into believing they are wrong, which is often part of a greater scheme, according to Merriam-Webster.

Gaslighting encompasses other common terms associated with misinformation, such as “deepfakes” and “fake news,” according to Merriam-Webster.

We owe the term “gaslighting” to the 1938 play and 1944 film “Gaslight” (a remake of a 1940 film). It is in both stories that a nefarious man attempts to trick his new wife into thinking she is losing her mind, in part by telling her that the gaslights in their house, which dim when he is in the attic, are not fading.

Both the play and film were hugely popular, the Broadway version running for more than 1,000 performances, and the 1944 film earning an Oscar nomination for Ingrid Bergman. As a result of the film’s popularity, the noun “gaslight” also became a verb.

“Gaslighting,” as used in the film, is psychological manipulation that causes a victim to question their reality over an extended period of time.

The term “gaslighting” has become ubiquitous in recent years, particularly in the age of misinformation, according to Merriam-Webster. CNN’s opinion writer said in 2017 that President Donald Trump was “gaslighting” the public after he denied making several public statements. In 2021, CNN’s Chris Cillizza used the word again to describe Trump’s downplaying of the January 6 insurrection.

Additionally, it is a legitimate and “extremely effective form of emotional abuse,” according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, which offers resources for survivors. There was also a New York Times article this year about “medical gaslighting,” when patients, especially women and people of color, are dismissed by physicians who minimize their symptoms.

Merriam-Webster reports a 1740% increase in searches for the term “gaslighting” this year.

In popular media this year, the word Gaslit was used to describe a limited series starring Julia Roberts set during the Watergate scandal in the 1970s. When tensions run high, the young, rich cast of “Bodies, Bodies, Bodies” accuses each other of gaslighting. In both HBO’s “The White Lotus” and Warner Bros. Discovery’s “Don’t Worry Darling,” characters gaslight one another.

In contrast to other commonly searched words like “omicron” and “queen consort,” “gaslighting” refers to a phenomenon that doesn’t come and go, but rather is ingrained in our daily lives.