: 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, uncertainty of one's emotional or mental stability, and a dependency on the perpetrator
Gaslighting can be a very effective tool for the abuser to control an individual. It's done slowly so the victim writes off the event as a one off or oddity and doesn't realize they are being controlled and manipulated.—Melissa Spino
Gaslighting can happen in any relationship circumstance, including between friends and family members—not just in couple relationships.—Deena Bouknight
This is a classic gaslighting technique—telling victims that others are crazy and lying, and that the gaslighter is the only source for "true" information. It makes victims question their reality …—Stephanie Sarkis
: the act or practice of grossly misleading someone especially for one's own advantage
Election season can create emotions spanning from immense anxiety all the way to extreme apathy. The public arguing, divisiveness, and competition for votes, including political gaslighting, can be overwhelming and exhausting.—Vernita Perkins and Leonard A. Jason
As the midterm elections approach, Americans have gotten an earful both about crime itself and how the other side is distorting the news about it for political gain. "Cherry-picking!" "Fearmongering!" "Gaslighting!"—Chris Herrmann and Fritz Umbach
Intense gaslighting techniques are making it difficult for Montana's commoners to discern what's truth and what's propaganda.—Steve Kelly
This corporate gaslighting effectively blames children for being addicted to social media and conveniently ignores how companies have intentionally designed their products to have addictive features …—Nancy Kim
The Origin and Semantic Development of Gaslighting
The origins of gaslighting are colorful: the term comes from the title of a 1938 play and the movies based on that play, the plots of which involve a man attempting to make his wife believe that she is going insane. His mysterious activities in the attic cause the house’s gas lights to dim, but he insists to his wife that the lights are not dimming and that she can’t trust her own perceptions.
When gaslighting was first used in the mid-20th century, it referred to a kind of deception like that in the plots mentioned above (sense 1). In the current century, the word has come to refer also to something simpler and broader: “the act or practice of grossly misleading someone, especially for a personal advantage” (sense 2).
In this use, the word is at home with other terms relating to modern forms of deception and manipulation, such as fake news and deepfake.
The idea of a deliberate conspiracy to mislead has made gaslighting useful in describing lies that are part of a larger plan. Unlike lying, which tends to be between individuals, and fraud, which tends to involve organizations, gaslighting applies in both personal and political contexts, and is found in formal and technical writing as well as in colloquial use.
In addition to this sort of gaslighting (pardon the pun), Trump also exploits xenophobic fears about E.V.s.—Liza Featherstone, The New Republic, 3 Nov. 2023 His calculated gaslighting of so many people struck me as representational of the oil industry as well.—Sean Woods, Rolling Stone, 22 Oct. 2023 The diagnostic odyssey—or the journey to a diagnosis for a rare disease patient—takes, on average, four to nine years, and can include medical gaslighting, complete denial by doctors, and wrong diagnoses.—Erin Prater, Fortune Well, 13 Sep. 2023 On the other hand, red flags in a relationship consist of more severe behaviors, like gaslighting, manipulation, general rudeness, lack of boundaries, and emotional unavailability, just to name a few.—Dominique Fluker, Essence, 21 Aug. 2023 The gaslighting has demoralized those Republicans who remain immune, to say nothing of independents and Democrats.—Time, 14 Aug. 2023 For those who've experienced a narcissistic relationship, one of the biggest challenges − more than even the gaslighting, devaluing and lack of empathy − can be accepting that a narcissistic personality style is extremely resistant to change.—USA TODAY, 1 Aug. 2023 And for all the gaslighting, the message seems awfully clear.—Amy Westervelt, The New Republic, 19 July 2023 Another common barrier to endometriosis diagnosis and treatment is medical gaslighting, which occurs when a person’s healthcare concerns are dismissed by a provider.—Jess Cording, Forbes, 16 Mar. 2023 See More
These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'gaslighting.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.