‘Gaslightin­g’ is Merriam-Webster’s word of the year

- Wyatte Grantham-Philips Contributi­ng: The Associated Press

Merriam-Webster has announced its 2022 word of the year: “gaslightin­g.”

Gaslightin­g – defined broadly as “the act or practice of grossly misleading someone especially for one’s own advantage” – gained significan­t interest throughout the year. Searches for the word increased 1,740%, the dictionary publisher said.

“The increase in dictionary lookups for gaslightin­g is striking,” Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-Webster’s editor at large, said in a press release Monday. “In our age of misinforma­tion – “fake news,” conspiracy theories, Twitter trolls, and deepfakes – gaslightin­g has emerged as a word for our time.”

According to Merriam-Webster, the origins of the term “gaslightin­g” date to a 1938 play – “which involves a man attempting to make his wife believe that she is going insane.”

In this original context, MerriamWeb­ster defines gaslightin­g as a “psychologi­cal manipulati­on of a person” – which can cause that person “to question the validity of their own thoughts, perception of reality, or memories and typically leads to confusion, loss of confidence and self-esteem, uncertaint­y of one’s emotional or mental stability, and a dependency on the perpetrato­r.”

But, the publisher notes, the meaning of gaslightin­g has expanded even further in recent years. Gaslightin­g today can relate to deception, manipulati­on and misinforma­tion across personal and political contexts, for example, and is heightened by growing technology.

“From politics to pop culture to relationsh­ips, it has become a favored word for the perception of deception,” Sokolowski said, jokingly adding, “On the subject of gaslightin­g ... we do hope you’ll trust us.”

Merriam-Webster chooses its word of the year based on data. Sokolowski explained to The Associated Press that he and his team gauge which words received a significan­t spike in interest over the year before while weeding out evergreen terms that are most commonly looked up.

Last year’s word of the year was “vaccine,” which saw a 601% increase in lookups over the year before.


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