Oxford has chosen its word of the year, but its meaning is unknown to most English speakers
Many of us are back to life in 2023. After two long years of isolation and disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, we left the house. We went on dates. And – according to the Oxford Word of the Year – we have rizz. What is this word and what does it mean, the publication said The Washington Post.
The word rizz is a slang term for "the ability to attract a romantic or sexual partner," according to Oxford Languages, the division of Oxford University Press that selects the word of the year. The word was chosen by experts and popular vote from a list of eight terms reflecting the diversity of sentiments, interests and concerns of humanity this year, beating out words such as swiftie, beige flag and situationship.
The win for rizz, which Oxford says is short for charisma, may be because the word reflects people's more "positive" outlook for 2023, according to Casper Grathwohl, president of Oxford Languages.
“Pandemic exhaustion is starting to give way to all the feelings that come with it,” he said.
While the 2022 word of the year – goblin mode, which Oxford defined as “a type of behavior that is unapologetic, lazy, sloppy or greedy, usually defying social norms and expectations” – was about keeping people at a distance; rizz is more “about how you attract people,” Grathwohl said.
According to Oxford University Press, the word rizz is believed to have originated in 2022 in online gaming communities. But it really took off this year after actor Tom Holland used it in an interview with BuzzFeed to describe his perceived lack of romantic ability.
“I don’t have rizz at all. I have very little rizz,” Holland said in a June interview, the video of which has since been viewed more than 58 million times on X.
The comment caused confusion among social media users.
"He actually said he doesn't have rizz when he's literally with Zendaya," one user joked.
In the interview, Holland added: “I’m happy and in love. So I don't need rizz."
The word spread on social media and soon became mainstream, especially among young people, according to Oxford University Press. It gave rise to puns - irrizzistable - and related terms; people who value style over substance in a romantic or sexual partner have become known as "rizz glasses wearers." It has even entered the marketing jargon of companies, such as the dating app Tinder rizz-first redesign.
The word rizz was included in a list of eight words in the running for Oxford Languages' 2023 Word of the Year due to its popularity and origins in internet culture. These words were taken from Oxford's vast language corpus - a collection of large troves of tagged electronic text - which is regularly updated with new English words from around the world. This year's list included pop culture terms like swiftie, a nickname for Taylor Swift fans, as well as words related to artificial intelligence and climate change:
- beige flag - a character trait indicating that a partner or potential partner is boring or lacks originality; also a trait or habit, especially of a partner or potential partner, regarded as extremely characteristic but not clearly good or bad;
- situationship – A romantic or sexual relationship that is not considered official;
- parasocial - the designation of a relationship characterized by a one-sided, unappreciated feeling of intimacy experienced by a viewer, admirer or follower of a famous or prominent figure (usually a media celebrity), in which the follower or admirer comes to feel (falsely) that he knows the celebrity as a friend;
- heat dome - a persistent high-pressure weather system over a specific geographic area that traps a mass of hot air beneath it;
- swiftie is an enthusiastic fan of singer Taylor Swift;
- rizz – style, charm or attractiveness; ability to attract a romantic or sexual partner;
- prompt – A direction given to an artificial intelligence program, algorithm, etc. that determines or influences the content it generates.
- de-influencing is the practice of discouraging people from purchasing certain goods or encouraging people to reduce their consumption of material goods, particularly through social media.
The eight words were paired and the audience was asked to choose their favorite word from each. Linguistic experts then analyzed usage data and "public comments" to select the winner. According to organizers, more than 27 people took part in the survey between November 30 and November 30.
Last year, the group held a public vote for Word of the Year for the first time, and the winner, goblin mode, was chosen entirely based on the results of that vote, organizers said at the time.
According to Oxford University Press, the choice of the word rizz illustrates the growing influence on the language of younger generations, particularly Generation Z, which generally refers to people born between 1997 and 2012.
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“As Generation Z increasingly influences society, differences in attitudes and lifestyles are reflected in language,” the press release states.
Grathwohl said he wasn't surprised when the word rizz beat out the competition. He says the word is "short, quick, sparkly" and fun to say because of the rolling Z. It feels "playful" at a time when people want to "take a break from the gloomy news cycles and reflect on the past year in a way that it didn’t feel heavy or burdensome,” he said.
Although rizz is a new word, the feelings it reflects—feelings of attraction—are as old as time. Over the years they have been expressed in other words, such as game, which Oxford said first became popular in the 1970s. According to Grathwohl, this shows that while language may evolve, parts of human culture remain the same.
“The quest for rizz is eternal,” he said.
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