‘Gaslighting’ is Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year

You better believe it: “gaslighting” is the word of the year.

The new common term for lying to someone in order to mentally manipulate them topped the 2022 Merriam-Webster list. hottest words and phrases, which also included terms like “cancel culture,” “oligarch,” and “queen consort.”

While “gaslighting”‘s top spot wasn’t due to a single event driving searches for the term, which saw a 1,740% increase in 2022, Merriam-Webster officials said its rise makes sense given the social climate.

“In this age of misinformation, ‘fake news,’ conspiracy theories, Twitter trolls, and deepfakes, gaslighting has emerged as a word for our time,” Merriam-Webster said in announcing word of the year monday

Peter Sokolowski, the dictionary’s editor-at-large, said the word was looked up every day in 2022.

Other words that made the dictionary top 10 by 2022 it included “oligarch”, derived from the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February.

“Omicron” was also a popular search word this year driven by the latest and highly contagious variant of the coronavirus.

This image posted by Merriam-Webster shows a screenshot of the word gaslighting and its definition from Merriam-Webster.com.
The term “gaslighting” was named Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year.
Merriam-Webster via AP

Another popular term this year was “cancel culture,” which was most frequently searched for in January when Pope Francis used the term in his annual address to diplomats around the world, according to Sokolowski.

Online dictionary users also turned to Merriam-Webster to look up the word “encode” when Roe v. Wade was struck down, and many were interested in how abortion rights could be codified into federal law.

After FBI agents invaded the Mar-a-Lago property of former President Donald Trump in August, people searched for “raid.”

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And when Google fired an engineer who claimed an unlaunched AI system had become “sentient,” that word also became a popular search.

Gas lamps illuminate Gaslight Square in St. Louis on April 2, 1962.
Terms like “oligarch” and “queen consort” also made the word list.
AP/JMH Photo, File

“Queen consort,” referring to King Charles’s wife, Camilla, was also a commonly searched term last year. “LGBTQIA” was also a popular search last year, peaking during Pride Month in June.

The last word to break into the top 10 was “loamy”, a word that fooled many Wordle players in August, even though the correct word that day had been “clown”.

Merriam-Webster tracks 100 million page views per month on its website and then chooses its word of the year based on the data. After removing the commonly searched evergreen words, the officials find which words received a significant increase from the previous year.

Gaslighting spent all of 2022 in the top 50 most searched words on the dictionary website, earning it the word of the year title. Last year’s choice was “vaccine.”

The full definition of gaslighting from the dictionary site 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 usually , leads to confusion, loss of confidence and self-esteem, uncertainty about one’s own emotional or mental stability, and dependence on the perpetrator.