By issuing a call-out to the public to have their say on this year’s Word of the Year, Oxford University Press (OUP) has sparked debate and discussion around language for a second year running. After asking the public to refine a shortlist of eight words, all chosen to reflect the mood, ethos, or preoccupations of the year, more than 30,000 word lovers across the world had their say. OUP is pleased to announce that the Oxford Word of the Year 2023 is rizz.
Rizz was chosen by the language experts at OUP as an interesting example of how language can be formed, shaped, and shared within communities, before being picked up more widely. It speaks to how younger generations create spaces—online or in person—where they own and define the language they use. From activism to dating and wider culture, as Gen Z comes to have more impact on society, differences in perspectives and lifestyle play out in language, too.
The Oxford Word of the Year is a word or expression that reflects the past twelve months in some way, having potential as a term of lasting cultural significance or providing a snapshot of social history. Supported by evidence of real language usage, OUP’s language experts track candidates as they emerge throughout the year via the constantly updated Oxford Monitor Corpus of English, analysing frequency statistics and identifying words or expressions that have been recently added to the language (neologisms). Previous words chosen by OUP have included vax (2021), climate emergency (2019), and, by public vote for the first time, goblin mode (2022).
This year, through head-to-head competitions over a four-day voting period, a shortlist of eight worthy contenders was narrowed down by the public to four finalists: rizz, Swiftie, prompt, and situationship. Language experts at OUP considered the corpus data, the votes, and public commentary around the words to choose Oxford’s Word of the Year for 2023.
Speaking about this year’s Word of the Year campaign and the winning word, Casper Grathwohl, President, Oxford Languages, says, “It has been incredible to see the public once again enjoying being a part of the Word of the Year selection. Witnessing thousands of people debate and discuss language like this really highlights the power it has in helping us to understand who we are, and process what’s happening to the world around us.
Given that last year ‘goblin mode’ resonated with so many of us after the pandemic, it’s interesting to see a contrasting word like rizz come to the forefront, perhaps speaking to a prevailing mood of 2023, where more of us are opening ourselves up after a challenging few years and finding confidence in who we are.
Rizz is a term that has boomed on social media and speaks to how language that enjoys intense popularity and currency within particular social communities—and even in some cases lose their popularity and become passé—can bleed into the mainstream. This is a story as old as language itself, but stories of linguistic evolution and expansion that used to take years can now take weeks or months. The spike in usage data for rizz goes to prove that words and phrases that evolve from internet culture are increasingly becoming part of day-to-day vernacular and will continue to shape language trends in the future.”
ABOUT THE OXFORD WORD OF THE YEAR 2023
Rizz is a colloquial word, defined as style, charm, or attractiveness; the ability to attract a romantic or sexual partner. Etymologically, the term is believed to be a shortened form of the word ‘charisma’, taken from the middle part of the word, which is an unusual word formation pattern. Other examples of this word formation pattern include fridge (from refrigerator) and flu (from influenza). Rizz can also be used as a verb, in phrases such as to rizz up, which means ‘to attract, seduce, or chat up (a person).’ Expansions into other parts of speech like this can indicate that a word is becoming more prominent in the language.
The word is often associated with younger generations, especially teenagers, and emerged from gaming and internet culture. The American YouTube and Twitch streamer Kai Cenat is widely credited online with popularizing the word in 2022, offering advice to people on how to have rizz. The word then rose in popularity on TikTok with the hashtag receiving billions of views and has taken on new interpretations and variations such as unspoken rizz.
The term has since entered mainstream conversation with usage of the word showing an increase this year, peaking in June when actor Tom Holland was asked in a widely reported interview with Buzzfeed about his own rizz, to which he answered, ‘I have no rizz whatsoever, I have limited rizz.’ Tinder then made ‘rizz-first’ design updates to its app, which was described as an attempt to appeal to Gen Z, and a new dating trend of having ‘rizz-coloured glasses emerged where people prioritize rizz over other characteristics like shared values or interests, when choosing a partner.
Although its first appearance in the Oxford Monitor Corpus of English was in 2022, rizz has some similarities to game, defined as ‘skill, prowess, or technique; the ability to impress; spec. the ability to attract others sexually by using one’s charm or charisma in an artful way’—a usage which dates back to the 1970s.
As voting for the shortlist got underway, media outlets and influential figures weighed in on the debate around the eight words, including UK’s The One Show, with hosts Roman Kemp and Alex Jones placing their bets on #TeamSwiftie to win, while comedian Ania Magliano voted for #TeamRizz. Popular influencers took to social media to have their say; cabaret performer @stage_door_jonny picked parasocial for the title, while situationship proved relatable, and author Taylor-Dior Rumble, who brought the concept to life in her recently published book The Situationship, got involved in the conversation.
FURTHER INFORMATION ON THE WORD OF THE YEAR 2023 CAMPAIGN
For 2023, a shortlist of eight words was selected by the language experts at OUP, all chosen to reflect the mood, ethos, or preoccupations of the year. They examined the 22-billion-word corpus of language data for words or expressions that have seen a spike in usage or that have been recently added to the language (neologisms).
The shortlist was then opened up to head-to-head voting by the public across social media and the Oxford Languages website, from Monday 27th November to Thursday 30th November 2023. The words included:
• Swiftie vs. de-influencing
• beige flag vs. rizz
• situationship vs. parasocial
• heat dome vs. prompt
One winner emerged from each of those competitions, narrowing the field down to four finalists: rizz, Swiftie, prompt, and situationship. The experts then performed one last detailed analysis of the data, taking into account the votes and public commentary on the finalists.