As many of us have been educating ourselves on different ways people treat us, there have been an increase in the use of certain words and terms. Of course, when you hear someone use a phrase you’re unfamiliar with, you’re look up its meaning. Merriam-Webster has kept track of the words we’ve all searched and has deemed “gaslighting” as the word of the year.
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The site’s definition of the term is the psychological manipulation of a person, usually 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.”
Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-Webster’s editor at large spoke about the word in an interview with the Associated Press. “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,” he says. “”It was a word looked up frequently every single day of the year.”
There was a 1,740 percent increase in searches for the “gaslighting” this year, according to Merriam-Webster. The term comes from the 1944 thriller “Gaslight,” adapted from a Hamilton, Victorian-era play set in London. In the film, a woman notices things in the house disappearing, noises coming from the attic and the house’s gas lights dimming. Her husband convinces her that it’s all in her head and that she is going insane.
Gaslighting can be dangerous. It is a tactic often used by abusers in relationships but can span from family to friends and even to politicians. There’s also “medical gaslighting,” when a health care professional diminishes a patient’s medical concerns as “all in their head.”
“Gaslighting,” spent all of 2022 in the top 50 words looked up on merriam-webster.com according to Sokolowski. Last year’s word of the year was “vaccine.” The other words in this year’s top 10 are:
- Queen consort
- Cancel culture