Life as it Happens

I’ve Been Accused of Gaslighting

2023’s Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year

Cappelli, MFA, JD, PhD
Published in
5 min readAug 13
Photo by Mohamed Nohassi and Author+Canva


I never heard the word before until 2021 when one of my students, Abbey, claimed I gaslit her after trivializing her feelings. This was after she poured on the tears hoping I would change her final grade from a C to an A.

“I need this A. I won’t get into Brown without it,” Abbey said.

“Sorry, Abbey,” I replied. “I hardly think one C is going to destroy you.”

“You have no clue. Now, you’re gaslighting me!”

Abbey got that right. I was clueless.

I had no idea what gaslighting was and didn’t even bother to look it up. I suppose I was a bit tough. So much so that she told the administration, and somehow I got written up for my insensitivity. Was this the definition of gaslighting?

I continued to hear the word over and over again. Gaslit this, gaslit that.

Were there other insensitive teachers out there also unwilling to give an average student an A after hearing their sad personal stories and saying the wrong thing — “I’m sorry, next time study.”

Fast forward to 2023.

Gaslighting is Merriam-Webster’s 2023 word of the year because people like me, both innocent and guilty, looked it up to figure out what we were being accused of and what the hell it meant.

Merriam-Webster’s Definition of the Word

Apparently, I wasn’t the only person with a slow burner; word searches for gaslighting increased steadily since 2020. Meriam/Webster Dictionary saw increases of 1,740 percent in 2022 over the year before.

I was in good company.

So what is the definitive meaning?

Gaslighted or gaslit; gaslighting; gaslight

transitive verb
Definition: to psychologically manipulate (a person) usually over an extended period of time so that the victim questions the validity of their own thoughts…



Cappelli, MFA, JD, PhD

Top Know Nothing Writer. Curiosity leads me through an Imelda Marcos labyrinth of way too many interdisciplinary degrees https://marycappelli.