Gaslight meaning urban dictionary

Gaslighting: From a 1938 play to a common accusation.

Gaslighting: From a 1938 play to a common accusation. -

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In a Word

Instead of two people discussing where their perceptions of reality might differ, accusations of "gaslighting" shut down the conversation entirely.

  • By Melissa Mohr Correspondent

My son told me recently that I was gaslighting him. What did that mean, actually? I found myself in sympathy with a contributor to Urban Dictionary, a crowdsourced online collection of slang, which defined gaslighting as “a word you google when your significant other accuses you of doing it to them. ” It is also the rare word whose etymology we can be precise about – it comes from the title of a play, “Gaslight.”

Patrick Hamilton’s 1938 thriller is about a woman whose husband is trying to drive her insane by contradicting the evidence of her senses. She finds a letter; he steals the letter and tells her she imagined it. She hears him walking around upstairs at night, but he denies it. The house’s gas lighting – the play is set in 1880s London – flickers; he tells her that her eyes are playing tricks on her. 

In the 1950s, gaslighting became not just the title of the play but a name for the husband’s behavior. It referred to psychological manipulation so extreme that people subjected to it begin to doubt their own sanity. 

Interest in the use of the word has grown over the past decade, as shown by Google’s Ngram Viewer, which tracks words’ occurrences in printed books, and Google Trends, which tracks how often they are searched for online. A graph of gaslight’s usage since 2010 goes up like a rocket.  

As it has become more widespread, its meaning has become weaker and more generalized. While it can still designate deliberate emotional abuse, it is more commonly applied to any behavior or statement that makes a person question his or her own perceptions or memories. 

Families are leaving public schools. How will that change education?

Gaslighting appears frequently in politics. Conservative pundits called former President Barack Obama “the Gaslighter-in-Chief”; countless news organizations have used the same epithet for former President Donald Trump, and President Joe Biden is now gaslighting Americans about the Afghanistan pullout, according to a former CIA analyst. 

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An article on NBC News’ website repeats a popular definition of gaslighting – “when someone leads you to question your own reality” – and this crystallizes a problem with the term as it is commonly used. Instead of two people discussing where their perceptions of reality might differ, accusations of gaslighting shut down the conversation entirely.  

My son thought he had studied hard for a math test on which he had done poorly. I thought he hadn’t taken it seriously enough. The “reality” was probably that we were both right – he had genuinely studied hard, but he needed to study more. Was I gaslighting him? Or were we simply looking at the same situation in different ways? 

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Mark Sappenfield


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Gaslight Definition & Meaning |

  • Top Definitions
  • Quiz
  • Related Content
  • About This Word
  • Examples
  • British

This shows grade level based on the word's complexity.

[ gas-lahyt ]

/ ˈgæsˌlaɪt /

Save This Word!

See synonyms for gaslight on

This shows grade level based on the word's complexity.


light produced by the combustion of illuminating gas.

a gas burner or gas jet for producing this kind of light.


gaslit (def. 2).

verb (used with object), gas·light·ed or gas·lit, gas·light·ing.

to cause (a person) to doubt their sanity through the use of psychological manipulation: How do you know if your partner is gaslighting you?



Smoothly step over to these common grammar mistakes that trip many people up. Good luck!

Question 1 of 7

Fill in the blank: I can’t figure out _____ gave me this gift.

Origin of gaslight

First recorded in 1800–10; gas + light1;def. 4 in reference to the 1944 movie Gaslight, in which an abusive husband secretly and repeatedly dims and brightens the gaslights in the house while accusing his wife of imagining the flickering


gaslighted, gaslit, adjectivegaslighting, noun

Words nearby gaslight

Gaskell, gasket, gaskin, gas law, gas laws, gaslight, gas lighter, gas-liquid chromatography, gas liquor, gaslit, gas log

Dictionary. com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does

gaslighting mean?

Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse or psychological manipulation involving distorting the truth in order to confuse or create doubt in another person to the point they question their sanity or reality.

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


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.

Words related to gaslight

flashlight, light, beacon, torch, searchlight, hurricane lamp

How to use gaslight in a sentence

  • I’m just saying that is part of the mystery that we want to un-gaslight people about and this is a way to do it.

    The great bamboo hunt: Arizona’s bizarre vote-examination effort gets more bizarre|Philip Bump|May 6, 2021|Washington Post

  • From a thematic standpoint, I was struck by the show’s exploration of how society can gaslight its scapegoats into believing—and thus embodying—the worst stereotypes about themselves.

    The Controversy Around Amazon's Them Underscores the Trouble With Realistic Violence in Genre TV|Judy Berman|April 13, 2021|Time

  • Amazon has left no stone unturned in its efforts to gaslight its own employees.

    'You Can't Escape the Gravitational Pull of Jeff Bezos.' How Amazon Won the Preliminary Union Vote in Alabama|Abby Vesoulis|April 10, 2021|Time

  • RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum said in a statement offered to TechCrunch,Amazon has left no stone unturned in its efforts to gaslight its own employees.

    Amazon defeats warehouse union push, RWDSU challenges results|Brian Heater|April 9, 2021|TechCrunch

  • “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

  • Paxton was in the Army and visited the Village on the weekends to play gigs at the Gaslight and the Commons.

    Fact Vs. Fiction in ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’: The Real Story of Folk is Far Less Dejected Than the Movie|Jimmy So|December 4, 2013|DAILY BEAST

  • The opening title card to Inside Llewyn Davis tells us that it is winter 1961 at the Gaslight Café in Greenwich Village.

    Fact Vs. Fiction in ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’: The Real Story of Folk is Far Less Dejected Than the Movie|Jimmy So|December 4, 2013|DAILY BEAST

  • 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

British Dictionary definitions for gaslight


/ (ˈɡæsˌlaɪt) /


a type of lamp in which the illumination is produced by an incandescent mantle heated by a jet of gas

the light produced by such a lamp

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Gas lamps - a source of light on city streets

Printable version

April 16, 2021

Now we are used to electric lighting. It is certainly economical and widespread everywhere. But its predecessor was gas. Light gas

was used not only as a source of street lighting, but also for indoor lighting, heating, cooking, hot water in both public and private homes.

Mankind has been familiar with natural gas for a long time. For example, in China at the end of the 2nd millennium, a bamboo gas pipeline was built to illuminate mines, heat and illuminate houses, and also used it for industrial purposes in pottery workshops for firing ceramic products.

In Europe, gas lamps begin to appear from the 15th century. Until that time, in order to illuminate the streets, at home, people used candles, oil lamps. They had to be carried with them, and to illuminate the streets they were put up in the windows of houses. It all started with the ambitious idea of ​​the Prince of Great Britain, the future King George IV. It was he who lit the first gas lamp in 1805 at his residence, Carlton House. 179The year 9 marked the first patent for a gas light system. This was the beginning of the first mass public coverage in the history of mankind.

All changes began from the streets, gradually capturing private houses and public institutions. Gas lamps have survived to this day. Most gas lighting remains in Berlin (37,000 lamps in 2014), followed by Düsseldorf (14,000 in 2020). Even in the center of London there are similar lanterns. In some cities, gas lighting is preserved or restored as an old nostalgic element in order to maintain the historical atmosphere of their historic centers. Why is this lighting option so attractive? First of all, gas light cost much less than oil lamps or candles, which certainly speeded up the process and made such a light source tempting. Secondly, it must be said that the appearance of such a light source influenced the second industrial revolution. With the development of industry, cities and transport began to develop rapidly, there was a great need to increase the length of the working day.


It all started with William Mirdock's invention of the gas lamp. This device is very similar to a gas burner. The head is a rod on which there is a catalytic mesh, the main function of which is to provide bright illumination. Externally, the device is protected by a glass cover with a metal cover attached by a gearbox to a metal frame. Burners for gas light sources can be divided into two types: direct and inverted (downward). The design of burners for lamps, lanterns directly depends on the method of supply: low pressure gas (25-100 mm Hg) or high. For a long time, gas lighting equipment remained quite primitive, which led to high fuel costs. The gas burned right in the air, and the flame resembled the shape of a fish. Over time, due to competition with electricity, the main gas light device - the burner - was improved in favor of efficiency: burners with an Auer storage cap appeared, as well as burners using compressed gas.

Lighting and gas industry

The beginning of the 19th century was marked by the creation of a new type of industry - lighting and gas. Lighting and gas plants were built, gas pipelines were laid to houses and street lamps. There have been big changes in the gas storage system. The first gas holder was invented by the French chemist Lavoisier in 1781. The volume of the gas tank did not exceed 100 liters and was used as a gas storage for the laboratory.

Initially, the gas holder was rectangular, but after 8 years the French chemist changed the shape to a cylindrical one. To store lighting gas, gas companies needed large gas storage facilities. And scientists have found a way. The solution was simple: build a big gas tank. The first industrial type rectangular wet tank was designed and built by Morehod, an English chemist. Then the chemist S. Clegg built a cylindrical gas holder.

Gas lighting developed rapidly. It seemed that the moment when gas jets were invented was a turning point. But gas lighting was replaced by electricity. The gas industry still left a huge legacy of inventions (burners, gas tanks, gas pipelines, etc.), which we still use today.

Mansplaining: A Modern Dictionary of Female-Male Relationships

Feminitives are becoming more and more dense in our lives, as are many other new words that explain the good old dominance, manipulation and ultra-violence. In honor of March 8, we have compiled a concise dictionary of the most relevant concepts regarding gender relations.

Manspreading, also known as mensiting or transport machismo, is familiar to almost all women who have to travel in public transport. Its most striking manifestations can be observed in the subway, where old benches are designed for six average bodies. But not all citizens occupy the same volume in space ...

The term "manspreading" itself comes from the words "man" - a man, "spread" - scatter, lay out, etc. In general, yes, we are talking about those the most "broad soul" of men who cannot keep their spiritual scope in themselves and express it in transport through widely spaced legs.


Often, such an arrangement of limbs violates the personal boundaries of other people - usually women sitting next to them. And if there is no one nearby, the "transport macho" easily takes two adjacent places. And he is not always ready to change his position when other people enter the car or bus.

However, according to experts on gender terms, manspreading is still more "tied" to problems with education and etiquette. Still, you can even be an inveterate misogynist, but keep your knees in check.

Mansplaining is also a widespread phenomenon. This term is just perfectly illustrated in the TV series Silicon Valley, where one of the characters condescendingly tells two interlocutors that "mansplaining is when a man condescendingly explains to a woman what she already knows."

Lovely colleagues often give ladies a discount on their "weaker sex", trying to explain something in the simplest and most understandable language - like a small child. At the same time, ladies sometimes feel awkward when they are trying to explain the material that is well known to them. Often the explainer himself knows little about the issue. But I am sure that a woman cannot understand it better by definition.

Mensplaining sometimes takes on rather funny forms - for example, when a partner tries to explain the teacher's instructions to a girl in a dance or yoga class. Ignoring the fact that the girl also has ears and hears the same instructions.

The need to accept such explanations with a smile and gratitude in women's forums and in groups of "Vedic women" is called "women's wisdom".

Most women experience an exotic phenomenon called "manterrapting" many times a day, even though the word seems unfamiliar to us. It stands for simply: "man" - a man and "interrupt" - to interrupt.

In 2017, Brazil even developed a special application that remembers the voice of the hostess, and during the conversation counts how many times the conversation was interrupted by her interlocutor. The program is called just that - Woman Interrupted, "The woman who was interrupted."


People often interrupt each other, in a conversation, each of us most often wants to speak out and tell his story, but few people are really ready to listen to what the opponent is saying. But a man can interrupt an interlocutor more easily than a male opponent. But when a woman decides to interrupt the interlocutor, such behavior is perceived as impudence. This conclusion is made in his research by Igor Groshev, Doctor of Psychology, Professor at Tambov State University.

In 1998, two scientists from the University of California at Santa Cruz found that men most often interrupt women not so much out of enthusiasm, but out of a desire to assert their dominant, dominant position in a conversation.

The sad meme from social media about how you said a joke and no one heard it, and then a friend repeated your joke louder, and the company exploded in laughter and applause, best illustrates the concept of hipitting. The word itself was formed from the merger of the English words "he" (he) and "repeat" (repeat). And it describes a phenomenon as absurd as mensplaining.


Hippitting is the repetition by a man of the words spoken by a woman as his own statement. It often happens that the interlocutor in a dispute with a lady repeats her statement, being sure that he is making a completely opposite argument. But more often, the woman's statements are ignored, while the same words spoken by the representative of the "stronger sex" are met with admiration.

This beautiful word describes a rather eerie phenomenon that is not always recognizable in relationships. The name came straight from dramaturgy: at 19In the year 38, Patrick Hamilton's play "Gaslight" was staged in the USA, in which the main character complained to her husband that in the evenings the light from gas lamps faded. He masterfully convinces his wife that it only seems to her - and it comes to the point that she stops believing her own eyes. Meanwhile, the brightness of the light really decreased in the evenings due to the fact that the man turned on the light in another part of the house, where he was looking for jewelry.


Actually, the same technique is used in gaslighting. This is a technique of psychological manipulation, in which the manipulator convinces the victim that nothing terrible, bad or wrong is happening in their relationship - everything just seems to her.

Learn more