What is gaslighting? Merriam-Webster's word of the year

Updated on Nov 28, 2022 12:48 PM IST

Speaking to news agency Associated Press, Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-Webster's editor at large said on Monday, “It's (gaslighting) 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.”

Gaslighting can happen between romantic partners, within a broader family unit and among friends.(AP photo)
Gaslighting can happen between romantic partners, within a broader family unit and among friends.(AP photo)
By | Written by Harshit Sabarwal, New Delhi

American dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster has highlighted "Gaslighting" as its word of the year. Lookups for the word on its website increased 1,740 per cent in 2022 over the year before. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, gaslighting is 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, the uncertainty of one's emotional or mental stability, and a dependency on the perpetrator.”

It is a heinous tool frequently used by abusers in relationships — and by politicians and other newsmakers.

Gaslighting can happen between romantic partners, within a broader family unit and among friends. It can also be a corporate tactic or a way to mislead the public.

Speaking to news agency Associated Press, Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-Webster's editor-at-large said on Monday, “It's (gaslighting) 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.”

“It was a word looked up frequently every single day of the year,” Sokolowski added. He pointed out that 'gaslighting' spent all of 2022 in the top 50 words looked up on Merriam-Webster's website to earn top dog word of the year status.

Merriam-Webster chooses its word of the year based solely on data. Sokolowski and his team weed out evergreen words most commonly looked up to gauge which word received a significant bump over the year before, the Associated Press further reported.

(With agency inputs)

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