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

The word saw a 1,740% increase in lookups this year

If you’ve felt manipulated or grossly misled during the past year, we can’t say weren’t imagining it. We can say, however, that you weren’t alone.

“A driver of disorientation and mistrust, gaslighting is ‘the act or practice of grossly misleading someone especially for one’s own advantage,’” Merriam-Webster wrote in announcing its 2022 word of the year.

In 2022, “gaslighting” saw a 1,740% increase in lookups.

The term comes from the 1944 psychological thriller’ “Gaslight” (and the 1938 play it’s based on). The plot “involves a man attempting to make his wife believe that she is going insane,” the online dictionary wrote. “His mysterious activities in the attic cause the house’s gas lights to dim, but he insists to his wife that the lights are not dimming and that she can’t trust her own perceptions.”

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These days, however, it is often associated with fake news, conspiracy theories and internet trolls.

“The idea of a deliberate conspiracy to mislead has made gaslighting useful in describing lies that are part of a larger plan,” Merriam-Webster wrote. “Unlike lying, which tends to be between individuals, and fraud, which tends to involve organizations, gaslighting applies in both personal and political contexts.”

Technology has made it vastly easier to mislead people, the dictionary pointed out, making “gaslighting” the preferred term for perceived deception and earning it the title of word of the year.