Word of the Year 2023: Oxford ‘rizz’ up; Webster & Collins capture modern zeitgeist

After going 'goblin mode' in 2022, Oxford goes on a charmed offensive this year by choosing 'rizz' as its Word of the Year (WOTY), while Merriam-Webster and Collins Dictionary focus on words capturing the modern zeitgeist, opting for 'authentic' and 'AI,' respectively.

Oxford WOTY
According to Oxford Languages, 'rizz' was awarded the WOTY after more than 32,000 votes, as well as a team of language experts voting in its favor.

Oxford defines 'rizz' as a noun denoting "style, charm, attractiveness, or the ability to attract..." It is a Generation Z creation, a shortened form of "charisma," as noted by Oxford, and pertains to "someone’s ability to attract another person through style, charm, or attractiveness." "This term is from the middle part of the word ‘charisma,’ which is an unusual word formation pattern," it added. Other examples include 'fridge' (refrigerator) and 'flu' (influenza). 

However, according to Oxford, the word 'rizz' can also be used as a verb, often in the phrase ‘rizz up,' which means 'to attract, seduce, or chat up (a person).'

As per the 'Oxford Monitor Corpus of English,' the use of 'rizz' increased dramatically in 2023, with a peak in June 2023 when actor Tom Holland was asked in a widely reported interview about his 'rizz.'

"I have no rizz whatsoever; I have limited rizz," he reportedly replied.

Other WOTY finalists for Oxford were Prompt; Situationship; Swiftie, while Beige Flag, De-influencing; Heat dome; Parasocial adjective were shortlisted.

Merriam-Webster WOTY
Lexicographers at Merriam-Webster and Collins Dictionary, however, stick to words reflecting the current technological zeitgeist as their WOTY. 

Accordingly, Merriam-Webster’s WOTY 2023 was 'authentic,' which it elaborated as a term for something we’re thinking about, writing about, aspiring to, and judging more than ever.  A high-volume lookup most years, 'authentic' saw a substantial increase in 2023, driven by stories and conversations about AI, celebrity culture, identity, and social media, noted Webster in a blog on its website announcing its WOTY. 

'Authentic' has a number of meanings, including “not false or imitation,” a synonym for real and actual, and also “true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character.”

Although clearly a desirable quality, 'authentic' is hard to define and subject to debate—two reasons it sends many people to the dictionary.  'Authentic' is often connected to identity, whether national or personal: words frequently modified by 'authentic' include cuisine and dish, but also self and voice, noted Webster. 

Celebrities like singers Lainey Wilson, Sam Smith, and especially Taylor Swift all made headlines in 2023 with statements about seeking their “authentic voice” and “authentic self,” it said.  And with the rise of artificial intelligence—and its impact on deepfake videos, actors’ contracts, academic honesty, and a vast number of other topics—the line between “real” and “fake” has become increasingly blurred, it opined.

'Authentic' is what brands, social media influencers, and celebrities aspire to be. Ironically, with “authentic content creators” now recognized as the gold standard for building trust, “authenticity” has become a performance, Webster added. 

Other top contenders for WOTY in Webster were Rizz; Deepfake; Coronation; Dystopian; EGOT (the Emmy, the Grammy, the Oscar, and the Tony), X, Implode; Doppelgänger; Covenant; Indict, Elemental, Kibbutz and Deadname.

Collins WOTY
AI, the abbreviated form for artificial intelligence, is Collins’ WOTY 2023. 
Collins defines artificial intelligence as “the modelling of human mental functions by computer programs.”  The bursting of revolutionary AI-powered language into the public consciousness in late 2022, wowing us with its ability to mimic natural human speech and the subsequent “explosion of debate, scrutiny, and prediction” are more than enough justification for the WOTY, Collins said.  According to Collins, the word also captures the profound nature of the challenge facing humans: “Can machines really become human-like? And how will that pan out for our species?” 

Other shortlisted words for Collins’ WOTY were De-Influencing, Nepo Baby, Canon Event, Ultra-processed, ULIZ (ultra-low emission zone), Debanking, Bazball, Semaglutide, and Greedflation.
(Morung Express Feature)