Each year, the Oxford Word of the Year is named. The Word of the Year is a word that has had a massive cultural impact on the English-speaking world over the past twelve months and this year, there were a lot of contenders. In the past, the Word of the Year has been words and phrases like “goblin mode,” “selfie,” “unfriend,” and one year, it was the cry laughing emoji. This year, the word is a slang phrase that rose to prominence when used by internet celebrities like Kai Cenat, but it had a particularly surprising boost from actor Tom Holland.
The 2023 Word of the Year is “rizz”
The Oxford University Press (OUP) is the publisher of the Oxford English Dictionary and is responsible for choosing each year’s Word of the Year. This year, the slang term “rizz” totally “rizzed them up” into getting used. But what does it mean?
Initially brought into the public consciousness by Twitch streamer Kai Cenat, “rizz” is a Gen Z term that essentially means that someone is particularly charismatic and charming. If someone is described as having “rizz,” it means they excel in social situations, particularly when they’re feeling flirty.
What does Tom Holland have to do with this?
In June 2023, Tom Holland had a viral interview in which he declared that he definitely does not have “rizz” and revealed that the key to getting his co-star and girlfriend Zendaya to fall for him was to spend a lot of time making a movie together and for him to “play the long game.”
Even though the word was first used in 2021, Tom Holland using it in that interview and announcing that he has a limited supply of this trendy term that helped to really give it a massive boost beyond its original audience as people started using it more and more.
When explaining this huge surge in popularity following Tom Holland using the word, the OUP said, “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.”
It’s no wonder that in the age of the internet and social media, when words can suddenly take the world by storm following a single interview like rizz did, it must be hard to pick a single word to name as the Word of the Year. This year, the OUP had its work cut out for them with the words it had shortlisted for the final pick.
Rizz beat out a ton of big words
The OUP narrowed down a list of popular words that were big in 2023 and then asked the public to vote between two different words in order to land on a final winner, meaning that they not only took into account what people were saying, but also used public votes to choose a winner.
Among the words that became finalists were words like “Swiftie” which is the name for Taylor Swift’s fanbase, “de-influencing” which is the phrase used on social media apps like TikTok to show reasons not to buy a popular product that users deem not worth it, “parasocial” which is used to define one-sided relationships between celebrities and their fans who become too attached to them.