This year, the number of times people looked up Merriam-Webster’s definition of gaslighting skyrocketed 1740 percent compared to 2021. So it seems fitting that the dictionary named it 2022’s word of the year.
Merriam-Webster actually has two definitions for the noun. The first is as follows: “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.”
If you’re thinking, “Boy, that sounds exactly like what happened to Ingrid Bergman’s character in the 1944 Hollywood classic Gaslight,” it’s because it is. The film, based on an earlier play, coined the term.
But as Merriam-Webster explained in a blog post, people these days don’t just use gaslighting to describe total reality-distorting manipulation. It can also refer more generally to “the act or practice of grossly misleading someone especially for one’s own advantage.” With all the disinformation floating around the internet, it can be tough to realize when you’re being gaslighted into discarding your own perceptions or beliefs.
Merriam-Webster also revealed a shortlist of other contenders that saw dramatically increased look-ups in 2022. A handful had political connotations, including oligarch, codify, and raid. And when news broke that Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, would become Queen Consort in the wake of Queen Elizabeth II’s death, curious Crown followers flocked to their phones to discover what the title Queen Consort actually means.
See what other popular terms made the list below, and find out more about each one here.
- Queen Consort