Merriam-Webster, the oldest dictionary publisher in the United States, has released their list of most searched words throughout 2022, with gaslighting becoming their word of the year. In their research to determine the most looked up words through their online dictionary, 2022 gaslighting saw a 1,740% increase in searches.
In their summary as to why they believe gaslighting to be top of their search trends, Merriam-Webster wrote “in recent years, with the vast increase in channels and technologies used to mislead, gaslighting has become the favoured word for the perception of deception. This is why (trust us!) it has earned its place as our Word of the Year.”
The word originated from the 1938 play and 1944 movie of the same name, in which the wife inthe film is manipulated by her husband who had constantly lowered the gas-power lamps in their home. This practice made the wife believe that she is descending into insanity when in actuality, she was being deceived.
The word these days has taken up the connotation of deliberately misleading and subverting the truth or fact of a matter in order to manipulate people into believing something. Given the much maligned attempts by Donald Trump to prove the Presidential election was rigged, it comes as no surprise Merriam-Webster saw a huge increase in the definition search.
As Merriam-Webster summed up the phrase in their list, gaslighting now has become the definition of an “act or practice of grossly misleading someone, especially for a personal advantage.” In this use, the word is at home with other terms relating to modern forms of deception and manipulation, such as fake news, deepfake, and artificial intelligence.”
What were the other high performing words of 2022?
Merriam-Webster also provided a list of other high-performing words throughout 2022, many of which giving a snapshot into the world of politics and activism throughout the year. Oligarch, Codify and LGBTQIA all were big search results for the online dictionary, while many people looked for Queens Consort, the position Camilla Parker-Bowles filled after King Charles III succession to the throne.
The FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago, one of the homes of Donald Trump, prompted many in the United States to search for the word ‘raid’ while the rise of AI and automation in business led to “sentient” being looked up frequently.
Scrabble fans also may have a new word to throw tiles down to also, with loamy becoming a brain-teaser since its appearance on Wordle and Quordle. When loamy (“consisting of loam, a soil consisting of a friable mixture of varying proportions of clay, silt, and sand”) was a Quordle answer on August 29th, the entry surged 4.5 million percent. In May, the Quordle answer voilà inspired a lookup spike of 2.5 million percent.