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gaslight, v.

Brit. Hear pronunciation/ˈɡaslʌɪt/
U.S. Hear pronunciation/ˈɡæsˌlaɪt/
Frequency (in current use):  Show frequency band information
Origin: Formed within English, by conversion. Etymon: English Gaslight.
Etymology: < the title of George Cukor's 1944 film Gaslight (a remake of Thorold Dickinson's 1940 version, in turn based on a play by Patrick Hamilton, first performed in 1938), in which a man psychologically manipulates his wife into believing that she is going insane. Compare gaslighting n.2
The title refers to the husband's adjustment of their home's gaslights to flicker and dim at unexpected times. Compare gaslight n.

  transitive. To manipulate (a person) by psychological means into questioning his or her own sanity. J. E. Lighter Hist. Dict. Amer. Slang (1994) I. 868/1 records an oral use from 1956.

1961   A. S. C. Wallace Culture & Personality 183   It is also popularly believed to be possible to ‘gaslight’ a perfectly healthy person into psychosis by interpreting his own behavior to him as symptomatic of serious mental illness.
1965   Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. (The Grudge Match) (transcript of TV programme) 12 Nov.   Duke. Maybe..we can get through to the Chief. Frankie. How do you mean? Duke. I mean psychological warfare... The old war on nerves. We'll gaslight him.
1977   Kennebec Jrnl. (Augusta, Maine) 22 Jan. 12/1   Starsky & Hutch begins as a straight story..then turns into a revenge tale, then who's gaslighting whom.
1987   National Lampoon Dec. 16   You gonna be gas-lighted by dese spooks.
2000   Spectator 1 Apr. 72/2   He ‘gaslighted’ Christina, humiliated and mentally tortured her, and shamelessly went after her money pretending to be investing it for her.

1961—2000(Hide quotations)


This entry has been updated (OED Third Edition, March 2012; most recently modified version published online March 2022).