The term gaslighting was later used by mental health practitioners to clinically describe a form of prolonged coercive control in abusive relationships.
“There is this implication of an intentional deception,” Sokolowski said. “And once one is aware of that deception, it’s not just a straightforward lie, as in, you know, I didn’t eat the cookies in the cookie jar. It’s something that has a little bit more devious quality to it. It has possibly an idea of strategy or a long-term plan.”
Merriam-Webster, which logs 100 million pageviews a month on its site, chooses its word of the year based solely on data. Sokolowski and his team weed out evergreen words most commonly looked up to gauge which word received a significant bump over the year before.
They don’t slice and dice why people look up words, which can be anything from quick spelling and definition checks to some sort of attempt at inspiration or motivation. Some of the droves who looked up “gaslighting” this year might have wanted to know, simply, if it’s one or two words, or whether it’s hyphenated.
“Gaslighting,” Sokolowski said, spent all of 2022 in the top 50 words looked up on merriam-webster.com to earn top dog word of the year status. Last year’s pick was “vaccine.” Rounding out this year’s Top 10 are:
— “Oligarch,” driven by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
— “Omicron,” the persistent COVID-19 variant and the 15th letter of the Greek alphabet.
— “Codify,” as in turning abortion rights into federal law.
— “Queen consort,” what King Charles’ wife, Camilla is newly known as.
— “Raid,” as in the search of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home.
— “Sentient,” with lookups brought on by Google canning the engineer who claimed an unreleased AI system had become sentient.
— “Cancel culture,” enough said.
— “LGBTQIA,” for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex, and asexual, aromantic or agender.
— “Loamy,” which many Wordle users tried back in August, though the right word that day was “clown.”