Gaslight Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How To Use It

Wondering what gaslight means? We can help. Read on as we explore the term gaslight’s definition, origin, synonyms, and more!

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No one deserves to have another person gaslight them. Emotional manipulation may not leave behind physical scars, but it can have long-lasting effects. 

Learning more about the definition of gaslighting and knowing the signs can help you better identify gaslighting in your everyday life. 

What Does Gaslight Mean?

Considered one of the most popular words of 2018 by Oxford Dictionaries, gaslight is a verb that means to manipulate a person through psychological means into questioning their sanity. 

You can also use this word to describe an individual “gaslighter” who presents a false narrative to another person, leading them to doubt their perceptions and become misled, distressed or disoriented. This is usually for the gaslighter’s benefit.

What Is the Origin of Gaslight?

The term gaslight can first be seen in the Oscar-winning 1944 movie Gaslight, a story about a husband who relies on trickery to convince his spouse that she is going mad to commit her to a mental institution and steal her inheritance. 

Fast-forward many decades later, co-founder and associate director for the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence Dr. Robin Stern helped push the term “gaslighting” into popularity with her 2007 book The Gaslight Effect.

What Are the Synonyms of Gaslight?

There are many different words that you can use instead of gaslight — these words are called synonyms. To help you widen your knowledge of the English language, we’ve listed synonyms for gaslighting below:

  • Manipulating
  • Tricking
  • Cheating
  • Conning
  • Deceiving
  • Duping
  • Misleading
  • Swindling
  • Bamboozling
  • Deluding
  • Hoaxing
  • Scamming

Gaslight Used in a Sentence

In short, the definition of gaslight is to use psychological manipulation to sow seeds of doubt in an individual’s mind, causing them to undermine their sanity, judgment, perception of reality, or memories. Here are a few examples of gaslight in a sentence:

  • Gregory and Jill constantly gaslight Paula, making her believe that Sarah’s ghost is haunting her.
  • We’ve always bickered, but lately, he’s accusing me of gaslighting him.
  • Because she likes to gaslight people, Terry’s mom often warns her teachers of her manipulation.
  • The shady salesman tried to gaslight the consumer, denying that he ever agreed to the deal.
  • My manipulative boss is always trying to gaslight me in the workplace.
  • Did you see that 1944 film adaptation of the play, Gaslight?
  • Gaslighters always try to make the victim the culprit for their bad behavior.

How Does Gaslighting Work?

When a person is gaslighting you, you may second-guess yourself, your memories, your perceptions, and recent events. After communicating with a gaslighter, you may be left feeling dazed, wondering if something is wrong with you. In addition, you may be encouraged to think you are actually to blame for something or that you’re just being “too sensitive.”

According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, there is a variety of gaslighting techniques that a gaslighter might use, such as:

  • Withholding, which means the gaslighter pretends not to understand or refuses to listen.
  • Countering occurs when the gaslighter questions the victim’s memory of certain events, even when the victim accurately remembers them. 
  • Diverting/blocking means the gaslighter changes the subject or questions the victim’s thoughts. 
  • Trivializing is when the gaslighter makes it seem like the victim’s feelings or needs are unimportant. 
  • Forgetting/denial refers to when the gaslighter pretends to have forgotten what actually happened or denies things like promises or prior agreements made to the victim. 
  • Stereotyping is when a gaslighter intentionally uses negative stereotypes of a person’s gender, ethnicity, race, nationality, or age to manipulate them. 

While anyone can be a victim of gaslighting, it is especially common in intimate relationships and social interactions where there is an imbalance of power. An individual on the receiving end of this hurtful behavior is experiencing abuse. 

Why Do People Gaslight?

Although the reason can vary from person to person, most people gaslight because being right gives them validation. When a gaslighter feels threatened, they need you to believe their version of the story to maintain their sense of power and control over you. It is a bad behavior someone learns by watching others. 

Some gaslighters also have personality disorders, such as narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). Many folks often use the term narcissist to describe a vain person. While anyone can have narcissistic traits, those with NPD tend to have long-term symptoms, such as:

  • A lack of empathy
  • An inability to admit any wrongdoing
  • A constant need for excessive admiration or attention
  • A belief that they are better than anyone else or special
  • A sense of entitlement
  • A belief that others are envious of them 
  • A grandiose sense of self-importance 

Over time, gaslighting can negatively impact your sense of self-worth or sense of reality, leave you unsure about your ability to make decisions, and contribute to feelings of depression, anxiety, and loneliness. If you feel you are a victim of gaslighting, be sure to speak up and seek support. 

In Conclusion 

So, what does gaslighting mean?

Simply put, gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation that causes individuals to doubt their sanity or own reality, often leaving them with low self-esteem and mixed emotions. It usually occurs in relationships and social interactions where there is an imbalance of power. 

Whether you’re a victim of gaslighting or the gaslighter, be sure to speak up and seek support. Get an outside perspective, focus on self-care, and know that your quality of life can improve.


  1. Narcissistic Personality Disorder – StatPearls | NCBI Bookshelf
  2. What is gaslighting? | The National Domestic Violence Hotline
  3. What is another word for gaslighting? | Word Hippo
  4. gaslight, v. | Oxford English Dictionary