verb (used with object), gas·light·ed or gas·lit, gas·light·ing.
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Origin of gaslight
OTHER WORDS FROM gaslightgaslighted, gaslit, adjectivegaslighting, noun
Words nearby gaslight
ABOUT THIS WORD
What does gaslighting mean?
Where did the term gaslighting come from?
The term gaslighting originates from a 1938 play called Gas Light by Patrick Hamilton. It was eventually adapted into a film, compounded into a single word as Gaslight, in 1944. The story features a conniving and murderous husband who tries to conceal his true identity from his wife. In the film, the husband makes his wife go crazy and steal valuable jewels her family has hidden away. Part of his efforts include toying with their gas-powered lights so they flicker. He convinces her that she’s imagining this, trying to drive her insane.
As a result of the film’s success, gaslighting became a common way of describing emotional abuse or manipulation that causes one to question their sanity. Evidence for this metaphorical extension emerges in the 1950–60s.
While there was some occasional political use in the 1990s, the term rose to particular prominence decades later during the 2016 U.S. election. Then-candidate Trump’s campaign and subsequent administration has been accused of “gaslighting America” for, among other things, labeling verifiable facts as “fake news.”
How to use the term gaslighting
The gerund gaslighting is used to describe the act of such sanity-questioning manipulation. Its verb form is to gaslight (e.g., to gaslight the public), taking a past tense of gaslighted or gaslit.
The term is used to describe toxic or unhealthy relationship dynamics involving power and control. It’s often used by victims who retroactively discover that a close friend or loved one has been extremely deceitful. As such, gaslighting is commonly associated with infidelity and has been named as a form of child abuse.
Gaslighting is increasingly used more casually to describe lying or deceitful behavior. For instance, some media critics have described the misleading narratives of popular podcasts S-Town and The Polybius Conspiracy as gaslighting the audience.
More examples of gaslighting:
“Gaslighting identifies a real phenomenon: the way critics of a line of thought sometimes try to discount the perceptions of the person producing that thought.”
—Katy Waldman, Slate, April 2016
This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.
Example sentences from the Web for gaslight
“Amazon feels that it has to go to extremes like this in order to gaslight its workers about the dreadful working conditions at its Bessemer warehouse,” Appelbaum told the press in response to the ads.Amazon goes on the offensive ahead of next week’s union vote counting|Brian Heater|March 26, 2021|TechCrunch
If an entire house could gaslight you, Kylie’s house would be doing exactly that, and that makes the movie a perversely relatable treat for anyone feeling like their prolonged confinement is driving them a bit mad.One Good Thing: Housebound is the perfect horror comedy for the perpetually quarantined|Aja Romano|December 31, 2020|Vox
Paxton was in the Army and visited the Village on the weekends to play gigs at the Gaslight and the Commons.
The opening title card to Inside Llewyn Davis tells us that it is winter 1961 at the Gaslight Café in Greenwich Village.
The gaslight was more than she could bear, she dropped her head again, covering her face with both hands.Tessa Wadsworth's Discipline|Jennie M. Drinkwater
Here and there chandeliers were being lighted for the concerts, blazes of gaslight flared among the green trees.The Nabob|Alphonse Daudet
She said if he would only permit the gaslight to remain burning, it would be all they would require.Yorkshire Oddities, Incidents and Strange Events|S. Baring-Gould
Their application for admission led to the withdrawal of a bolt, and they stood within the gaslight of the passage.The Well-Beloved|Thomas Hardy
The drizzle had turned into long gray rods of rain; they streaked the gaslight and pricked the shallow pools unceasingly.The Open Question|Elizabeth Robins