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Why is Merriam-Webster’s word of the year ‘gaslighting’?

Merriam-Webster chose ‘gaslighting’ as the 2022 word of the year. Here are the reasons why

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Gas lamps illuminate St. Louis’ Gaslight Square on April 2, 1962.

Gas lamps illuminate St. Louis’ Gaslight Square on April 2, 1962. “Gaslighting” — mind manipulating, grossly misleading, downright deceitful — is Merriam-Webster’s word of 2022.

Associated Press file photo

The word “gaslighting” is having a time in the spotlight as Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year for 2022.

The Associated Press reported that the dictionary company said there were many reasons for the interesting word of the year choice.

Here’s what we know.

Why was ‘gaslighting’ the word of the year?

The Hill reported that due to misinformation being a large topic in public discourse during the last couple of years, the publishing company chose “gaslighting” as the 2022 word of the year.

“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,” Merriam-Webster wrote, per The Hill. “This is why (trust us!) it has earned its place as our Word of the Year.”

The Associated Press reported that the word choice came about as the dictionary and publishing company found that the word has been looked up frequently and is used commonly in regular speech today.

“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,” Merriam-Webster’s editor, Peter Sokolowski, told The Associated Press.

The Guardian reported that the word was searched on the dictionary and publishing company’s website with a 1,740% increase in 2022 over the searches in 2021.

“It was a word looked up frequently every single day of the year,” Sokolowski said.

What is the dictionary definition of gaslighting?

Merriam-Webster’s definition for the word gaslighting 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.’”

Where did ‘gaslighting’ come from?

The word’s origin came from a 1938 British stage play called “Gas Light,” where the show depicted some of the elements of what the modern term “gaslighting” now means. The play was later made into a film in the U.S. in 1944.

“Those dramas vividly, if somewhat simplistically, depicted some of the basic elements of the technique,” Britannica reported.

Some of these techniques include denying or dismissing something that someone said or did when it obviously did happen and convincing the victim of something that is bizarre while invalidating the victim’s own thoughts and perceptions.

These typically lead to the victim feeling confused and not willing to trust their own judgement.