On Merriam-Webster.com, searches for the term rose 1,740% in 2022. However, there wasn’t a single event that sparked increased curiosity, unlike earlier in the year.
According to Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-editor Webster’s at large, “it’s a word that has risen so swiftly in the English language, and especially in the last four years, that it genuinely came as a surprise to me and to many of us.”
Every day of the year, “it was a word that was regularly searched up,” he added.
“Gaslighting”, the practice of manipulating a person to second guess themself, has been named American English dictionary Merriam-Webster’s word of the year.
The most common meaning of gaslighting according to Merriam-Webster is the psychological manipulation of a person over an extended period of time that “causes the victim 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.”
It is possible for romantic partners, members of a larger family, and friends to engage in gaslighting. It could be a business strategy or a deception strategy. A healthcare provider may engage in “medical gaslighting” when they discount a patient’s symptoms or illness as “all in their head.”
The term gaslighting was later used by mental health practitioners to clinically describe a form of prolonged coercive control in abusive relationships.
“There is this implication of an intentional deception,” Sokolowski said. “And once one is aware of that deception, it’s not just a straightforward lie, as in, you know, I didn’t eat the cookies in the cookie jar. It’s something that has a little bit more devious quality to it. It has possibly an idea of strategy or a long-term plan.”
“Gaslighting,” Sokolowski said, spent all of 2022 in the top 50 words looked up on merriam-webster.com to earn top dog word of the year status. Last year’s pick was “vaccine”.