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Jul 11, 2005
This week's theme
Words from movie titles

This week's words

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The word gaslight is an excellent example of how a language grows. It shows how a word's meaning can take unexpected paths in its evolution. The noun gaslight has not only turned into a verb but also taken a sense entirely unrelated to its inherent meaning.

It's a sign of cinema's hold on popular culture that this word from a movie title has entered the English lexicon in a new incarnation. This week we've collected five words from movie titles that have taken similar turns in the English language.


Pronunciation RealAudio

gaslight (GAS-lyt) verb tr.

To manipulate psychologically.

[From the title of the classic movie Gaslight (1940 and its 1944 remake), based on author Patrick Hamilton's play. The title refers to a man's use of seemingly unexplained dimming of gaslights (among other tricks) in the house in an attempt to manipulate his wife into thinking she is going insane.]

"Cutting off another couple hours with a zoomy Concorde look-alike would be nice, if such a plane could be delivered at an affordable cost. Here, though, anyone might wonder if the media are being gaslighted along with Airbus."
Holman W. Jenkins Jr.; Haven't Shareholders Had Enough Chicken? The Wall Street Journal (New York); Apr 4, 2001.

See more usage examples of gaslight in Vocabulary.com's dictionary.


Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life. -John Muir, naturalist, explorer, and writer (1838-1914)

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