The Oxford English Dictionary added a newish slang term to its pages, and just three months later it’s the 2023 Word of the Year!
You might be surprised that a relatively “new” word just made its way to the top of the pack. When I say “new,” I mean new in dictionary terms. A word is generally in use for a time before it appears in a dictionary. But that’s because a dictionary’s job is to define words for the masses. In this case, the 2023 word of the year only debuted in the Oxford English Dictionary in September.
That word, which you may or may not have heard the kids use, is rizz.
When I say “kids,” I particularly refer to Generation Z, which seems to be the primary group that embraced the word. Gen Z refers to people born between about 1997 and 2012.
So if you’re older than that — and I’m Gen X — you may never heard the word. I suppose, now that it gained word of the year status, you probably will eventually.
Oxford’s 2023 Word of the Year comes from a word you probably know
Oxford describes rizz this way: “Pertaining to someone’s ability to attract another person through style, charm, or attractiveness.” Can you think of a similar word that fits that definition?
The word that came to mind might be charisma. Rizz comes from the middle syllable of charisma.
Actor Tom Holland may have brought the word to your attention during a recent interview. When he spoke about his girlfriend, Zendaya, the interviewer asked about the secret to his “rizz.”
“I have no rizz whatsoever. I have limited rizz,” he said.
It was that interview, back in June, that caused the word’s use in 2023 to peak.
Yes, why would we expend the effort and energy to sound out three syllables when we can just pick one of them and create a new “word”?
Oxford language experts narrowed the list of this year’s word-of-the-year options to eight finalists. They then put the words up to public vote in pairs like basketball brackets. The voters came up with four final finalists. Besides rizz, there was prompt, the instruction we give to artificial intelligence. There was also situationship, a “romantic partnership” that seems to fall into the “it’s complicated” category. Then there was Swiftie, a nickname for Taylor Swift fans.
Those experts selected rizz as the cream of that particular crop.
But let’s face it: They clearly had little to work with.