“Gaslighting” spent all of 2022 in the top 50 words looked up on merriam-webster.com to earn top dog word of the year status, succeeding last year's pick “vaccine.”
"Gaslighting" — mind manipulating, grossly misleading, downright deceitful — has become Merriam-Webster's word of the year.
“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,” said Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-Webster's editor at large.
“It was a word looked up frequently every single day of the year,” he said.
Lookups for the word on merriam-webster.com increased 1,740 percent in 2022 over the year before.
But something else happened. There wasn't a single event that drove significant spikes in the curiosity, as it usually goes with the chosen word of the year.
The gaslighting was pervasive.
Gaslighting is a heinous tool frequently used by abusers in relationships — and by politicians and other newsmakers. It can be a corporate tactic, or a way to mislead the public.
There's 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, the word was brought to life more than 80 years ago with “Gas Light,” a 1938 play by Patrick Hamilton.
The term gaslighting was later used by mental health practitioners to clinically describe a form of prolonged coercive control in abusive relationships.
“There is this implication of an intentional deception,” Sokolowski said.
“And once one is aware of that deception, it’s not just a straightforward lie, as in, you know, I didn’t eat the cookies in the cookie jar. It’s something that has a little bit more devious quality to it. It has possibly an idea of strategy or a long-term plan.”
Among this year's Top 10 are:
— “Oligarch,” driven by Russia's offensive in Ukraine.
— “Omicron,” the persistent Covid-19 variant and the 15th letter of the Greek alphabet.
— “Queen consort,” what King Charles’ wife, Camilla is newly known as.
— “Sentient,” with lookups brought on by Google canning the engineer who claimed an unreleased AI system had become sentient.
— “Cancel culture,” enough said.