“Gaslighting” is the Merriam-Webster 2022 “word of the year”

 

Back in October, I shared a short viewer’s guide to the 1944 film Gaslight (link here), noting that it inspired the pop psych term gaslighting, which is “now used to characterize psychologically manipulative and controlling behaviors in interpersonal relationships, the political realm, and — of course — our workplaces.”

Well, little did I know that the folks at the venerable Merriam-Webster dictionary would designate gaslighting as their “word of the year” for 2022! Here’s Leanne Italie, reporting for the Associated Press (link here):

“Gaslighting” — behavior that’s 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 curiosity, as it usually goes with the chosen word of the year.

…“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 Monday’s unveiling.

“It was a word looked up frequently every single day of the year,” he said.

This is Merriam-Webster’s definition of gaslighting (link here):

: 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

To learn more

I’m re-sharing a book recommendation and some earlier pieces here on gaslighting, especially as it pertains to the workplace:

To learn more about the dynamics of gaslighting, I recommend: Robin Stern, The Gaslight Effect: How to Spot and Survive the Hidden Manipulation Others Use to Control Your Life (2018 paperback ed.).

Past blog posts:

2012-2020: When gaslighting went mainstream (2021)

Gaslighting exists, and it’s horrible, so we should invoke the term carefully (2020)

Institutional gaslighting of whistleblowers (2018)

Reissued for 2018: Robin Stern’s “The Gaslight Effect” (2018)

Gaslighting at work (2017, rev. 2018)

Inauguration Week special: “Gaslighting” goes mainstream (2017)

Is gaslighting a gendered form of workplace bullying? (2013)

Gaslighting as a workplace bullying tactic (2012, rev. 2017)

One response

  1. A shame that gaslighting is the word of the year. I am revisiting workplace bullying for a national conference in March. I become so angry when I hear of the stories still happening in healthcare.

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