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Merriam-Webster insists “gaslighting” was the word of the year, even if you thought it wasn't

Either 2022 was a year of gaslighting, or everyone in your life is lying to you

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A man lighting a gas lamp
A man lighting a gas lamp
Photo: DANIEL LEAL/AFP (Getty Images)

Dictionaries: They’re not just for cutting open and hiding stuff in anymore! Since the internet has taken over our lives, dictionaries and their big word databases have served as an interesting way to chart the major events of the year, like when everybody inexplicably got “stan” to catch on as an acceptable term in 2019, or in 2020 when there was this big “pandemic” thing that people wouldn’t stop talking about it (until they very abruptly did stop talking about it, even though they shouldn’t have), and there was also the time everybody started looking up “schadenfreude” when they needed to find a word to describe the feeling of seeing a big dumb asshole get what was coming to him for maybe the first time ever.

Well, Merriam-Webster has crunched the numbers for 2022 (or whatever the equivalent of crunching the numbers is for words), and it has determined that the word of the year—based on not only a consistent number of people looking it up all year but also an inability to pin it down to one specific cause—is “gaslighting.” For those who don’t know, gaslighting is the process of lighting some sort of lamp using natural gas, as opposed to electricity, and that is the one and only definition of the word. Any other definition is simply incorrect or maybe even nonexistent, and if you believe that there was ever any other definition for gaslighting, then it’s probably because someone in your life has been manipulating you. Not us, though. You can always trust us to tell you the truth.

Alright, fun aside, Merriam-Webster’s definition of gaslighting is “the act or practice of grossly misleading someone especially for one’s own advantage.” According to a press release, the dictionary’s Editor At Large, Peter Sokolowski, said the increase in searches for the word this year was “striking,” apparently 1,740 percent, and he specifically cites the similar increase in “‘fake news,’ conspiracy theories, Twitter trolls, and deepfakes.” The press release also references “a wide range of contexts in which misinformation was perceived to be part of a larger plan,” like with the January 6th Committee and “a scandal on ABC’s The Bachelor In Paradise.” (No mention of Starz’s Gaslit, but we didn’t really remember that happening either.)

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Merriam-Webster also put out this fun graphic that visualizes gaslighting, which we suspect may have been designed by one of Peter Parker’s exes:

Gaslighting visualized
Gaslighting visualized
Image: Merriam-Webster
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Other noteworthy words that had big dictionary spikes in 2022 were “omicron,” “oligarch,” “codify,” and “raid” (referring to the virus variant, the rich guys in Russia, the need to save abortion rights, and the thing the FBI did to that aforementioned asshole’s big stupid house).