Searches for the word on merriam-webster.com grew 1,740 percent in 2022 from a year earlier, but something unusual was also happening.
NEW YORK – “Gaslighting” is mind-manipulating, highly misleading, outright fraud Merriam Webster’s Word of the Year.
Searches for the word on merriam-webster.com grew 1,740 percent in 2022 compared to a year earlier. But something else happened. There was no event that significantly increased curiosity, as is usually the case with the chosen word of the year.
The gas light was diffused.
“It’s a word that has come up so quickly in the English language, and especially in the last four years, that it was actually surprising to me and to a lot of us,” Peter Sokolowski, Merriam- Webster’s editor at large, said. An exclusive interview with The Associated Press ahead of Monday’s unveiling.
“It was a word that was seen frequently every single day of the year,” he said.
There were deepfakes and the dark web. There were deep states and fake news. And there was plenty of trolling.
Merriam-Webster’s top definition for gaslighting is the psychological manipulation of a person, usually over a long period of time, that causes “the victim to question the validity of his or her own thoughts, perceptions of reality, or memories.” is and usually leads to confusion, loss of confidence and self-esteem, uncertainty of one’s emotional or mental stability, and dependence on the offender.”
Gaslighting is a nasty tool often used by abusers in relationships – and by politicians and other newsmakers. This can happen between romantic partners, within an extended family unit and between friends. It could be a corporate tactic, or a way to mislead the public. There is also “medical gaslighting,” when a health care professional dismisses a patient’s symptoms or illness as “all in your head.”
Despite its relatively recent prominence — including “Gaslighter,” The Chicks’ 2020 album featuring the angsty title single — the word came to life more than 80 years ago with Patrick Hamilton’s 1938 play “Gaslight.” It happened.
It spawned two film adaptations in the 1940s. One, in George Cukor’s 1944 “Gaslight,” starred Ingrid Bergman as Paula Alquist and Charles Boyer as Gregory Anton. The two marry after a passionate romance and Gregory turns out to be a champion gaslighter. Among other instances, he insists that her complaints about the constant dimming of the gas lights in their London townhouse are a symptom of her troubled mind. It wasn’t like that.
Angela Lansbury’s death in October sparked some interest in the word search, Sokolowski said. She played Nancy Oliver, a maid hired by Gregory and told not to disturb his “superior” wife.
The term gaslighting was later used by mental health professionals to clinically describe a form of prolonged coercive control in abusive relationships.
“This has the implication of an intentional deception,” Sokolowski said. “And once someone knows the deception, it’s not just a straight lie, like, you know, I didn’t eat the cookies in the cookie jar. It’s something that has a little more to it. It is a more deviant quality, possibly involving the idea of strategy or long-term planning.
Merriam-Webster, which logs 100 million page views a month on its site, chooses its word of the year based solely on data. Sokolowski and his team looked at evergreen words in general to gauge which words received significant hits compared to the year before.
They don’t break down why people look up words, which can be anything from a quick spelling and definition check to some sort of inspiration or motivation. Some people watching “gaslighting” this year might want to know if it’s one or two words, or if it’s hyphenated.
“Gaslighting,” Sokolowski said, took all 50 words of the year 2022 to rank as the dog word of the year on merriam-webster.com. Last year’s choice was “Vaccine.” This year’s top 10 includes:
– “Oligarch”, inspired by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
– “Omicron”, a persistent variant of COVID-19 and the 15th letter of the Greek alphabet.
– “Codify,” as in turning abortion rights into federal law.
– “The Queen’s Consort”, better known as King Charles’ wife, Camilla.
– “The Raid,” as in the search for former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home.
— “Sentient,” canning the engineer with a search brought by Google that claimed an unreleased AI system had become sentient.
– “Cancel the culture,” said Coffee.
– “LGBTQIA”, for gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex, and asexual, bisexual or agender.
– “Lomi”, which many Wordl users tried back in August, even though the correct word that day was “clown”.