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And the 2022 Merriam-Webster Word of the Year Is ... The word gained popularity this year amid news cycles cluttered with conspiracy theories and deepfakes.

By Emily Rella

entrepreneur daily

It's been quite a year for tech, with Gen Z taking the forefront on social media platforms like TikTok and bringing new light to new terminology surrounding subject matters like mental health, relationships, inclusivity, and more.

There has also been increased interest in conspiracy theories and deepfakes, which has made one word increasingly prevalent in major news cycles (read: the Elizabeth Holmes trial, the mass exodus of Twitter employees).

The word in question? Gaslighting, which was just named Merriam-Webster's "Word of the Year 2022."

Merriam-Webster defines gaslighting (verb) as "psychological manipulation of a person usually over an extended period of time that causes the victim to question the validity of their own thoughts, perception of reality, or memories and typically leads to confusion, loss of confidence and self-esteem, the uncertainty of one's emotional or mental stability, and a dependency on the perpetrator."

The origins come from a 1938 play aptly titled "Gas Light" wherein a man named Jack Manningham tries to make his wife think that she's going insane. Part of this happens when the lights in the couple's attic begin to dim and darken — he tells her she's imagining the change in light and that she can't be trusted with what she's seeing and believing.

"The idea of a deliberate conspiracy to mislead has made gaslighting useful in describing lies that are part of a larger plan," Merriam-Webster explained in a statement. "Unlike lying, which tends to be between individuals, and fraud, which tends to involve organizations, gaslighting applies in both personal and political contexts. It's at home in formal and technical writing as well as in colloquial use."

"Gaslighting" saw a 1740% increase in searches in 2022, Merriam Webster also noted.

Other top words of the year included "Oligarch" (amid the Russia-Ukraine conflict), "Omicron" (you can thank the pandemic for that one), and "Codify."

Last year's word of the year was, unsurprisingly, "Vaccine."

Emily Rella

Entrepreneur Staff

Senior News Writer

Emily Rella is a Senior News Writer at Entrepreneur.com. Previously, she was an editor at Verizon Media. Her coverage spans features, business, lifestyle, tech, entertainment, and lifestyle. She is a 2015 graduate of Boston College and a Ridgefield, CT native. Find her on Twitter at @EmilyKRella.

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