Rizz crowned Oxford Word of the Year 2023

4 December 2023
3 min read

After over 30,000 language lovers around the world got involved to help refine our shortlist of eight words, we are pleased to announce that the Oxford Word of the Year 2023 is rizz.

This year, we created a shortlist of eight words, all chosen to reflect the mood, ethos, or preoccupations of the past year, and put them to the public to vote for their favourites. Through head-to-head competitions over a four-day voting period, the public narrowed down our shortlist of worthy contenders to four finalists: rizz, Swiftie, prompt, and situationship. These words were then put to our language experts, who considered our corpus data, the vote counts, and the public commentary around the words to choose the definitive word of the year for 2023.

Why ‘rizz’?

‘rizz’ is a colloquial noun, 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’.

Our language experts chose rizz as an interesting example of how language can be formed, shaped, and shared within communities, before being picked up more widely in society. It speaks to how younger generations now have spaces, online or otherwise, to 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.

Speaking about this year’s campaign and the winner of Oxford Word of the Year 2023, Casper Grathwohl, President of Oxford Languages, said:

“It has been incredible to see the public once again enjoying being a part of the Word of the Year selection. Seeing 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 following 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.”

You can find out more about Oxford Word of the Year through the years here, and also what it means to us here at OUP.

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