The Oxford University Press (OUP) announced “Rizz” as the Word of the Year 2023 on Monday (4), signifying its resonance with the mood, ethos, and preoccupations of the past year.
The word rizz which implies romantic appeal 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.
“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 passe — can bleed into the mainstream,” said Casper Grathwohl, President of Oxford Languages, OUP.
“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,” he said.
OUP lists other examples of similar word formation patterns as 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).”
According to linguists, expansions into other parts of speech like this can indicate that a word is becoming more prominent in the language.
This year, OUP shortlisted eight words based on widespread use and put them to the public to vote for their favourites last week.
Through head-to-head competitions over a four-day voting period, the British public narrowed down the shortlist of contenders to four finalists: rizz, Swiftie, prompt, and situationship.
These words were then put to OUP language experts, who considered its corpus data, the vote counts, and the public commentary around the words to choose the definitive word of the year for 2023.
“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,” noted Grathwohl.
“Given that last year ‘goblin mode’ (self-indulgent behaviour) 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,” he added.
Among the other three finalists for the year, Swiftie is an enthusiastic fan of the singer Taylor Swift; prompt refers to an instruction given to an artificial intelligence programme or algorithm determines or influences the content it generates; and situationship refers to a romantic or sexual relationship that is not considered to be formal or established.
Other words on the shortlist that lost out in the public debates include: De-influencing – The practice of discouraging people from buying particular products, or of encouraging people to reduce their consumption of material goods, especially via social media.
Beige flag – A character trait that indicates that a partner or potential partner is boring or lacks originality; (also) a trait or habit, especially of a partner or potential partner, viewed as extremely characteristic, but not distinctly good or bad.
Heat dome – A persistent high-pressure weather system over a particular geographic area, which traps a mass of hot air below it.
Parasocial – Designating a relationship characterised by the one-sided, unreciprocated sense of intimacy felt by a viewer, fan, or follower for a well-known or prominent figure (typically a media celebrity), in which the follower or fan comes to feel (falsely) that they know the celebrity as a friend.