Merriam-Webster Word of the Year: ‘Gaslighting’

Joe Biden gaslighting (Drew Angerer / Getty)
Drew Angerer / Getty

The Merriam-Webster dictionary has declared “gaslighting” to be the word of the year for 2022, as searches for the term skyrocketed — though there was no specific incident or usage of the word to spark the sudden interest.

The term refers to the practice of intentionally deceiving someone by telling them that the state of the world is not what they perceive it to be. The term is used often in online political debates to accuse opponents of lying.

But “gaslighting” goes beyond lying. To carry out the deception, the perpetrator must be seen to believe the lie and to act as if it were true, interpreting subsequent events through the prism of an illusory claim about reality.

For example, when the Biden administration claimed inflation was “zero,” critics accused President Joe Biden of “gaslighting” by citing the month-to-month change in prices rather than the massive annual price increase. Likewise on gas prices, when the president claimed to have lowered gas prices because by late 2022 they had fallen below their record highs in the late spring, while they remained higher than when he took office in 2021.

Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-Webster’s editor at large, told the Associated Press (AP): “It was a word looked up frequently every single day of the year.” It also led searches on Monday morning on the dictionary’s website — beating “sentient” (#2) and “LGBTQIA” (#3). Merriam-Webster traces the term to a 1938 play, Gas Light, by Patrick Hamilton, and two films in the 1940s.

“The term gaslighting was later used by mental health practitioners to clinically describe a form of prolonged coercive control in abusive relationships,” the AP added.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.