As 2022 steadily marches to its conclusion, the end-of-year lists have already started making appearances. In a move that, ironically, some might find a little suspicious, the staff of Merriam-Webster Dictionary declared “gaslighting” 2022’s Word of the Year.
“In this age of misinformation — of ‘fake news,’ conspiracy theories, Twitter trolls, and deepfakes — gaslighting has emerged as a word for our time,” Merriam-Webster explained in their announcement.
The dictionary’s official definition of gaslighting is, “the act or practice of grossly misleading someone, especially for one’s own advantage.”
“Gaslighting” earned the Word of the Year title based on a number of factors, including search frequency — the dictionary’s research team saw a 1,740% increase in searches for the word’s definition this year.
— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) November 28, 2022
In a deep dive on the word’s origins, Los Angeles Review of Books explains that the idea of “driving a person to question their own sanity through deliberate psychological manipulation” hit pop culture after the release of the 1944 film “Gaslight,” starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer. In that film, a husband uses deliberately manipulated flickering gaslight from lamps to make his wife doubt her own sanity.
In a more modern context, though, gaslighting has been attached more to political commentary and conspiracy theories. Merriam-Webster said the term has “become the favored word for the perception of deception.”
While “gaslighting” was the clear winner based on its significant spike in internet searches and media usage, Merriam-Webster said there were a few other words that were contenders for the 2022 Word of the Year. They include:
- Codify: a verb referring to the process in which Congress makes law. In literal terms, its definition means, “to make a code.”
- Endemic: an adjective describing a characteristic (or in recent years, a virus) that is restricted to certain localities. Searches for “endemic” increased 874% in January.
- Omicron: the 15th letter of the Greek alphabet. Officials with the World Health Organization use Greek letters to distinguish virus variants. In this case, searches for “Omicron” spiked in popularity when this variant of COVID-19 spread quickly in 2022.
- Queen Consort: The wife of an ascended king, the title “Queen Consort” was a popular dictionary search shortly after the death of Queen Elizabeth II. When King Charles III became the monarch after his mother’s death in September, his wife Camilla, officially became Queen Consort.
You can read more about Merriam-Webster’s top searches of 2022 here.
By Marie Rossiter, for Newsy.