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Home Entertainment How ‘gaslighting’ became Merriam-Webster’s word of the year

How ‘gaslighting’ became Merriam-Webster’s word of the year

How ‘gaslighting’ became Merriam-Webster’s word of the year


In the 1944 thriller “Gaslight,” a woman notices belongings disappearing, noises coming from the attic and the house’s gas lights dimming. Her husband convinces her that it’s all in her head — that she is going insane.

The movie gave rise to the term “gaslighting,” which has exploded in popularity in recent years, especially during the Trumpian political era.

Now, it’s Merriam-Webster’s 2022 word of the year.

“In this age of misinformation — of ‘fake news,’ conspiracy theories, Twitter trolls, and deepfakes — gaslighting has emerged as a word for our time,” the dictionary company said Monday, unveiling its pick.

There was a 1740 percent increase in searches for the term in 2022, according to Merriam-Webster, with interest remaining high throughout the year. The definition? “The act or practice of grossly misleading someone especially for one’s own advantage.”

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The title of the film, which was adapted from a 1938 play, has become handy for describing “lies that are part of a larger plan,” the dictionary company said. “Gaslighting” fills a space between the word “lying,” which is typically among individuals, and “fraud,” which usually involves organizations. It works in personal and political references.

It appears frequently in pop culture: a television series called “Gaslit,” centered on Nixon’s attorney general’s wife, who was the first to publicly accuse the president of being involved in Watergate, debuted in 2022. It was often used in commentary about the behavior of former president Trump, including the much-discussed Teen Vogue op-ed “Donald Trump Is Gaslighting America.” And it is also used in psychology, defining a kind of abuse that causes a victim to question his or her own perceptions.

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“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,” said Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-Webster’s editor at large, told the Associated Press.

“It was a word looked up frequently every single day of the year,” he said.

“Gaslighting” beat out other terms more tied to specific events that occurred in 2022. Among them: “oligarch,” which spiked in interest following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine; “queen consort,” the proper title for the wife of the newly crowned King Charles; and “omicron,” the Greek letter given to the coronavirus variant that shot to dominance late last year.

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Also on the list was “codify,” driven by the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade; “loamy,” which saw a massive increase in lookups as the Aug. 29 answer for the word game Quordle; and “raid,” with interest peaking after the FBI executed a search warrant at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence.

The 2022 word of the year chosen by the U.K.-based Collins Dictionary was “permacrisis,” which it defined as “an extended period of instability and insecurity” and said “sums up quite succinctly just how truly awful 2022 has been for so many people.”

The publisher of the Oxford English Dictionary, meanwhile, is opening the pick to the public for the first time this year. Voting continues until Friday. The choices? “Metaverse,” “#IStandWith” and “Goblin mode.”

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