Merriam-Webster’s dictionary has crowned the term “gaslighting” as its 2022 word of the year.
Gaslighting is defined by the dictionary as “the act or practice of grossly misleading someone, especially for one’s own advantage.” Throughout 2022, the term saw a meteoric rise of 1,740% in search traffic, according to Merriam-Webster.
The dictionary attributed the heightened interest in the term to “‘fake news,’ conspiracy theories, Twitter trolls, and deep fakes.”
Gaslighting is not just a thing you made up because you are crazy. The term originates from a 1938 play called “Gas Light.”
The production showed a husband stealing jewels from the neighbor in the apartment above. Whenever the thief used the gas lights to illuminate the apartment, it would lower the amount of light in the rest of the building.
When his wife pointed out the dimness of the gas lights and his repeated disappearance, he attempted to convince her she is going insane rather than admit his nefarious activities.
However, the term gaslight did not gain a psychological connotation until published in the 1999 book, “Malignant Self-Love – Narcissism Revisited,” by Sam Vaknin, Ph.D.
Furthermore, Merriam-Webster claimed that the term had exceeded its purely psychological definition to encompass all forms of modern deception — especially through the internet.
“In recent years, with the vast increase in channels and technologies used to mislead, gaslighting has become the favored word for the perception of deception,” stated the dictionary in a news release.
Ironically enough, Merriam-Webster’s dictionary has also been accused of gaslighting. In July 2022, the dictionary redefined female and male to include “having a gender identity that is the opposite of male” and “having a gender identity that is the opposite of female,” respectively.
“Many who criticize Merriam-Webster’s subtle redefinition of ‘male’ and ‘female’ see it ultimately as an attack on the concepts of objective truth,” wrote the Daily Signal regarding reactions from conservative pundit Matt Walsh and Libs of TikTok.
Regardless of what is true and false, gaslighting has entered the national conversation and represents the 21st word to be crowned “word of the year,” following 2021’s “vaccine” and 2020’s “pandemic.”