Gaslighting: Merriam-Webster’s word of the year, All you need to know

The reports from the Merriam-Webster dictionary say that the search rate for gaslighting has increased by 1740%. Find out from where the word originates and in what contexts it is used.
Gaslighting: Merriam-Webster’s word of the year
Gaslighting: Merriam-Webster’s word of the year


Have you ever been in a situation where you go to confront someone about a wrong you are sure they have committed but instead of them acknowledging their mistake and apologizing genuinely, the situation goes haywire and they attack you with senseless defenses and emotionally draining phrases to make you feel guilty and to dump the blame of all that hurt and damage you've been through because of them on you? 

You must've noticed how every time you confront them they never take responsibility for their actions but instead they manipulatively make you apologize for misunderstanding them. That twisting of the truth is called gaslighting.


Relatable? Find out more about the Merriam-Webster’s word of the year gaslighting here.

ALSO READ: What is Gaslighting? Definition, Warning Signs & How to Deal with it

What is gaslighting?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, 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, the uncertainty of one’s emotional or mental stability, and a dependency on the perpetrator.”

Gaslighting is a tactic to abuse someone emotionally, making them doubt their thoughts and perception of reality. The gaslighter can convince their target that the memories they have are invalid because according to them, in reality, they never happened and you are the one who's overreacting, asserting that whatever they are telling you is the 'real truth'. 

Doesn't make sense right? But they strive to convince you it does, just because they are saying so. 

They start with challenging your reality through small details, making you admit that you were wrong, you admit because it didn't bother you as much and you move on.

The abuser uses this past"victory" to discredit you in the future for their selfish gain, leaving you questioning your own memory, hence being successful in enforcing the idea in your mind that they've always been right, still are, and probably will be, until you realize that they are manipulating you. 


The reason this word was picked as the word for 2022 is because there was a 1740% increase in searches for the word gaslighting.


Where does the word Gaslighting come from?

  • The term takes its origin from the 1938 play "Gaslight" where a woman's husband attempts to convince her that she's mentally unstable. He makes minor changes in her environment, for example dimming the gaslights. He manages to convince her that she's imagining these things to fulfill his goal to have her admitted to an asylum so that he could procure her inheritance.


  • The word gaslighting was first employed in the mid-20th century and referred to a deception similar to that in the movie. 


  • In recent years the meaning of the word has altered to “the act or practice of grossly misleading someone, especially for a personal advantage.”

What contexts is it used in?

You can be gaslighted by anyone it could be 

  • a romantic partner 
  • A toxic friend 
  • a controlling parent 
  • a boss
  • a doctor 
  • One can also be gaslit by a whole entity, and not just one individual. 

As Merriam-Webster puts it: “In this age of misinformation—of “fake news,” conspiracy theories, Twitter trolls, and deepfakes—gaslighting has emerged as a word for our time.”


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