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‘Rizz’ named word of the year by Oxford University Press

Gen Z’s favourite TikTok buzzword ‘rizz’ was crowned word of the year for 2023. Unsure what that means? A brush up on your social media dialect might be in order.

The word ‘rizz’ has been named word of the year by the Oxford University Press.

Based on more than 32,000 votes and final judgement from a team of language experts, the word is defined as ‘style, charm, or attractiveness; the ability to attract a romantic or sexual partner’. It was used incessantly on TikTok this year and is a staple of Gen Z dialect.

‘Rizz’ is understood to be a shortened form of the word ‘charisma’ and can also be used as a verb. The phrase ‘to rizz up’, for example, means to chat up or seduce someone. It’s essentially an updated version of ‘game’.

Oxford University Press’ word choice marks Gen Z’s increasing influence over regular language and discourse, and reinforces social media’s overwhelming presence within our everyday communication. It follows in the footsteps of 2022’s word of the year, which was ‘goblin mode’.

Plus, it’s all good fun. That’s the most important thing, right?

Which words were runner up?

Interestingly, there were several runner up words that almost took the crown. The first of these was ‘prompt’, a term that saw a huge increase in daily use in 2023 thanks to the explosion of generative AI and ChatGPT.

As the Oxford University Press writes, ‘as AI systems have spread […] more people have developed the skills needed to use them effectively and, in some cases, become specialised prompt engineers’.

Our newfound love for the word ‘prompt’ is representative of our increasingly intertwined relationship with machines and procedurally generated information.

Next up was ‘situationship’, a term you’ve no doubt seen all over the internet over the past twelve months. A combination of both ‘situation’ and ‘relationship’, Oxford University Press defines the term as describing a ‘romantic or sexual relationship that is not considered to be formal or established’.

Much like rizz, this word dominated TikTok and Instagram feeds throughout 2023, and has become a mainstay for Gen Zers who find themselves confused romantically.

‘Swiftie’ also made the cut this year. A few others from the shortlist include ‘beige flag’, ‘de-influencing’, ‘heat dome’, and ‘parasocial’. Many of these terms reference romance, social media trends, or describe human connections in some way, once again reflecting Gen Z’s impact over our everyday dialect.

What does this mean for our language moving forward?  

Of course, these type of nominations and labels are mostly for good fun, and probably shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

Still, they are a good indication as to where pop culture was most prevalently felt within our language and choice of words on any given year. Just a quick glance back at final picks from a decade ago brings back memories. Anyone else remember ‘selfie’ from 2013?

Perhaps I’m showing my age.

Nevertheless, ‘rizz’ is strong evidence to suggest that social media and short-form content will continue to dominate our pop culture landscape and language for the immediate future. We’re already living in a world where abbreviation has become the norm – whether that be through emojis, labels, or simple shortening of words – and that’s only likely to increase.

Let’s see what next year brings. Knowing Taylor Swift, she’ll probably appear in the shortlisting a second year running.