Merriam-Webster has announced its word of the year for 2022. Over the past year, this word has increased in the number of lookups it has received at a rate of 1,740% in 2022 compared to its lookup rate in 2021. Oddly enough though, unlike the typical word of the year, this word’s popularity and lookup rate weren’t driven by any particular single event.
The 2022 Merriam-Webster word of the year is … Gaslighting.
— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) November 28, 2022
The Merriam-Webster top definition for 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, uncertainty of one’s emotional or mental stability, and a dependency on the perpetrator”
The word’s origins started more than 80 years ago in 1938 when Patrick Hamilton brought the word to the public in a play entitled “Gas Light.” Though it didn’t stop there, Hamilton’s play sparked two film adaptations in the 1940s, one of which cast Angela Lansbury who passed this October which may have created a few searches towards the word. The word has also been used more recently in media as the title of The Chicks’ 2020 album “Gaslighter,” which also included a title track with the same name.
Gaslight has also found popularity as a term outside of the entertainment arena as mental health practitioners have used the term gaslighting to describe control tactics in abusive relationships. As well as the media and pop culture using the word to describe treatment from medical providers and statements from politicians, lawmakers, and even friends and family.
Merriam-Webster chooses its word of the year solely based on data. Which a team goes through, and removes what they describe as “evergreen words” to gauge words that receive a significant bump and do not include commonly used words. They do not however filter for word spelling or definition checks. “Gaslighting” spent all of 2022 in the top 50 of words looked up on the site, leading to earning this top word achievement.
“Gaslighting” follows last year’s word of the year “Vaccine,” and is followed this year by the rest of the top ten searches. Which according to AP are as follows:
- – “Oligarch”
- – “Omicron”
- – “Codify”
- – “Queen Consort”
- – “Raid”
- – “Sentient”
- – “Cancel Culture”
- – “LGBTQIA”
- – “Loamy”