Dictionaries Announce 2023 "Word of the Year"


by Lesley Misko

The end of one year and the beginning of a new year is a time of reflection. Some of the reflection is personal and takes the form of “new year’s resolutions,” but there is also reflection at the societal level. Where has our nation been and where is it going? What have Americans embraced and what have Americans replaced? So The Expression decided to take a look back and a look ahead at just a couple of things.

A Look Back: What was the word of the year in 2023?

Merriam-Webster, the American company that publishes reference books, is best known for its dictionaries. In fact, it is the oldest U.S. dictionary publisher, founded in 1831 in Massachusetts. Annually, they determine what is “the word of the year.” This annual word choice is selected based on the number of times people have “looked the word up” to see what it means.

Merriam-Webster has awarded 2023 Word of the Year recognition to the word: “AUTHENTIC.” It seems like a logical choice during a time when the moral complications of artificial intelligence have begun to challenge our sense of what is real and what isn't. Also, in 2022 the Word of the Year was "gaslighting," so the need to define what is "authentic" makes total sense.

Merriam-Webster defines "authentic" as “being true to one’s personality, spirit, or character.” In the announcement of the word's selection as Word of the Year, examples are given of how the word can be correctly used. One example given is, “Taylor Swift strives to be authentic.” (Because  in 2024 Taylor Swift must be everywhere-- even though that doesn't seem particularly authentic.)

According to PBS NewsHour, other examples include, “authentic cuisine, authentic voice, authentic self.” NewsHour’s editor at large, Peter Sokolowski told the Associated Press, “We see in 2023 a kind of crisis of authenticity. What we realize is that when we question authenticity, we value it even more.”

“Can we trust whether a student wrote this paper? Can we trust whether a politician actually made this statement? We cannot always trust what we see anymore. We sometimes don’t believe our own eyes or our own ears,” Sokolowski points out.

Oxford University Press, which publishes the rival Oxford English Dictionary, has selected a different word as their 2023 Word of the Year. Their choice is: "RIZZ," a slang word defined as “style, charm, or attractiveness; the ability to attract a romantic or sexual partner.”  

Oxford Press notes that the word was extremely popular on social media, and calls it “a Gen Zterm,” referring to the generation that follows the Millennials, 1997-2012. While there is some debate, most sources suggest the word “rizz,” derives from “charisma,” meaning charming and attractive. "Rizz" also appears on the Merriam-Webster list of top words of 2023, but not in the top slot.  

We would suggest that you put on your "authentic rizz" today, but that's just so 2023, so instead we invite Expression readers to click here to read more about the other top words of 2023.  

Then, check back here tomorrow to read about the exciting new thing 2024 has brought us. We promise: you'll never guess!

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