Printable Version
Pronunciation: gæs-lait Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: 1. To manipulate a person by deceptive psychological means into questioning their own sanity. 2. To mislead a person by providing them with false information.

Notes: The US news media seem to be using today's word in a new sense, (2) above, in connection with the use of "fake news" (propaganda). The web especially is rife with such "news" today, but some US networks carry it, too. The noun for this verb is the expectable gaslighting; it also serves as an adjective.

In Play: The original meaning of today's word is to trick someone into thinking they are insane: "Harry gaslighted his wife in order to get her to agree to commitment to an insane asylum." However, the sense of the word has broadened: "The president gaslighted the employees into taking a pay cut."

Word History: Today's Good Word was taken from the title of George Cukor's 1944 film Gaslight, a remake of Thorold Dickinson's 1940 version, in turn based on a 1938 play by British playwright Patrick Hamilton. The word was not verbalized until the 1950s. The story describes a woman's reaction to the unexpected dimming of the gas lights in her house and doubts her own sanity when she is told she is imagining things or misremembering her experiences. Obviously, we have a compound containing gas + light. English borrowed the word from Dutch gas, which was coined by the Flemish chemist, J. B. van Helmont as a transliteration of Greek xaos "chaos". Dutch G is pronounced [gh], a G pronounced a bit like German or Scottish CH, the same sound as Greek [x]. Hence gouda, the cheese, is pronounced in Dutch [ghouda].

Dr. Goodword,

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