Words of the Year 2023
Sunday, 31 December 2023
Love a bit of lexical fun? Let's take a look at the major dictionaries' choices for Word of the Year 2023.
In December, the most well-known English dictionaries published what they consider to be their ‘Word of the Year’ (WOTY). These words are typically those which have either come into existence or gained new meaning within the given year. We’re going to take a whistle-stop tour of this year’s chosen words and what this might say about the year 2023!
First up is the Word of the Year that is most talked about: Oxford’s. A shortening of the word “charisma”, this word rose to popularity thanks to a Tom Holland interview in June where he said he had “no rizz whatsoever” when asked about his dating life.
What’s unique about the word “rizz” is that it comes from the middle of “charisma”, whereas almost all other shortenings derive from the start or end of a word, such as “carb” from “carbohydrate” or “toon” from “cartoon”.
Oxford discussed how this year has seen a rise in people’s concern with their social and professional rapport, possibly connected to the re-entry into regular life post-lockdown. All of this makes “rizz” an interesting reflection and exploration of our desire for self-confidence and human connection.
With the rise in AI usage, especially generative AI like OpenAI’s ChatGPT, “hallucinate” has taken on a new meaning this year. For AI, to “hallucinate” is for it to produce false information and present it as factual. While other words have also gained new AI-related meanings, “hallucinate” has a particularly strong resonance as a reminder to take caution when using AI tools, as an AI tool will present both true and false information in the same confident manner.
There has been a lot of talk online about AI usage in the year 2023. As such, “hallucinate” is a good choice for Word of the Year. It constitutes a marker of the current state of AI, where it is powerful yet not fully realised, and will therefore still produce some inaccurate or irrelevant information.
While Cambridge’s choice has focused on misinformation, Merriam-Webster’s focuses on the search for realness. “Authentic” has gained relevance in 2023 both for its meaning as “real and actual” against the false information often produced by social media and AI, as well as in relation to meaning “true to one’s own personality”, with this year seeing an increase in popularity of celebrities whose branding and influence revolves around being “authentic”, such as Taylor Swift or Sam Smith.
Collins has also decided to turn their attention this year towards the rise of AI and its significance in many areas of our lives. Their explanations of this choice highlight some of the hot topics and questions raised by the new role that AI has taken on in digital culture and daily life.
The last of the major dictionaries to publish their choice for Word of the Year, Dictionary.com appears to be in the same boat as Cambridge by focusing not on “an aspect of how AI functions but to one of the ways it can malfunction”. Again, as AI is increasingly talked about and commonly used, it’s important to be reminded that this technology is still in its earlier stages.
What's our WOTY?
While we’re not a dictionary ourselves, we thought it would be fun to see what our readers thought was the real winner and 2023 WOTY. We took to Instagram and asked our followers to choose from the above winners their favourite Word of the Year. With 63% of the poll votes, our winner was “rizz”! Clearly you’re all a pretty charismatic bunch!
So, there you have it! This year has given way to lots of discussion around the place of technology in society, as well as our own social identities. Now keep your eyes peeled over the next year for new words, how they’re used, and the power they carry.