Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year has finally been announced on Monday, with "gaslighting" being crowned as the most looked-up word of the year, with other words such as "oligarch," "Omicron," and "sentient" trailing behind.

The word "gaslighting" has been looked up on the site frequently, but a reported 1,740% increase happened over the year that was not necessarily backed by any big political or cultural event like many of the words on the list, making it a curious leading word, according to The Guardian.

"Gaslighting," which has been defined by the dictionary as “the act or practice of grossly misleading someone especially for one’s own advantage,” was first coined in around 1938, when a famous play and its accompanying 1944 film “Gaslight” was released. The film, where a man attempts to convince his wife that she is losing her mind for nefarious reasons, uses the gaslights in the film’s setting as a way for the man to convince the woman that she is going crazy by pretending that they are not fading out when he dims them, CNN reported.

Mainly used in the context of emotional abuse when the victim is convinced of the invalidity of their thoughts, the term "gaslighting" has found a new use as a nebulous term that describes the “age of misinformation,” with examples being pointed towards former President Donald Trump’s tendency to deny making statements that are part of the public record.

“It’s a word that has risen so quickly in the English language, and especially in the last four years, that it actually came as a surprise to me and to many of us,” Merriam-Webster’s editor-at-large Peter Sokolowski said.

The methodology of Merriam-Webster in choosing the 'Word of the Year' is weeding out words that are frequently looked-up in order to see the words whose searches have increased significantly from the year before.

Other words that have increased in popularity is "oligarch," which increased over 621% in early March as the Russia-Ukraine war began and Western sanctions were implemented. "Omicron" and "endemic" also increased in searches during the last COVID spike on December and January, Merriam-Webster reported.

Gaslighting Word of the Year Rep. Pic
The Merriam-Webster dictionary has released their Word of the Year, "gaslighting," which has received the largest increase of searches during the year. This is a representational image. Edho Pratama/Unsplash.

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