WORD OF 2022. "Gaslighting" — mind manipulating, grossly misleading,
downright deceitful — is Merriam-Webster’s word of the year. Lookups for
the word on merriam-webster.com increased 1,740% 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. (AR screenshot)
From The Asian Reporter, V32, #12 (December 5, 2022), page 9.
What headline? "Gaslighting" Merriam-Webster’s word of
By Leanne Italie
The Associated Press
NEW YORK — "Gaslighting" — mind manipulating, grossly misleading,
downright deceitful — is Merriam-Webster’s word of the year.
Lookups for the word on merriam-webster.com increased 1,740% 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.
"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, in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press
ahead of the unveiling.
"It was a word looked up frequently every single day of the year," he
There were deepfakes and the dark web. There were deep states and
fake news. And there was a whole lot of trolling.
Merriam-Webster’s top definition for 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, uncertainty of one’s emotional or
mental stability, and a dependency on the perpetrator."
Gaslighting is a heinous tool frequently used by abusers in
relationships — and by politicians and other newsmakers. It can happen
between romantic partners, within a broader family unit, and among
friends. It can be a corporate tactic, or a way to mislead the public.
There’s also "medical gaslighting," when a healthcare professional
dismisses a patient’s symptoms or illness as "all in your head."
Despite its relatively recent prominence — including Gaslighter,
The Chicks’ 2020 album featuring the rousingly angry titular single —
the word was brought to life more than 80 years ago with Gas Light,
a 1938 play by Patrick Hamilton.
It birthed two film adaptations in the 1940s. One, George Cukor’s
Gaslight in 1944, starred Ingrid Bergman as Paula Alquist and
Charles Boyer as Gregory Anton. The two marry after a whirlwind romance
and Gregory turns out to be a champion gaslighter. Among other
instances, he insists her complains over the constant dimming of their
London townhouse’s gaslights is a figment of her troubled mind. It
The death of Angela Lansbury in October drove some interest in
lookups of the word, Sokolowski said. She played Nancy Oliver, a young
maid hired by Gregory and told not to bother his "high-strung" wife.
The term gaslighting was later used by mental health practitioners to
clinically describe a form of prolonged coercive control in abusive
"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."
Merriam-Webster, which logs 100 million pageviews a month on its
site, 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.
They don’t slice and dice why people look up words, which can be
anything from quick spelling and definition checks to some sort of
attempt at inspiration or motivation. Some of the droves who looked up "gaslighting"
this year might have wanted to know, simply, if it’s one or two words,
or whether it’s hyphenated.
"Gaslighting," Sokolowski said, spent all of 2022 in the top 50 words
looked up on merriam-webster.com to earn top dog word of the year
status. Last year’s pick was "vaccine." Rounding out this year’s Top 10
- "Oligarch," driven by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
- "Omicron," the persistent COVID-19 variant and the 15th letter
of the Greek alphabet.
- "Codify," as in turning abortion rights into federal law.
- "Queen consort," what King Charles’ wife, Camilla, is newly
- "Raid," as in the search of former President Donald Trump’s
- "Sentient," with lookups brought on by Google canning the
engineer who claimed an unreleased AI system had become sentient.
- "Cancel culture," enough said.
- "LGBTQIA," for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or
questioning, intersex, and asexual, aromantic, or agender.
- "Loamy," which many Wordle users tried back in August, though
the right word that day was "clown."
Read the current issue of The Asian Reporter in
Just visit <www.asianreporter.com/completepaper.htm>!