How do you measure a year? In the song from Rent, you have suggestions ranging from cups of coffee to love, but what about something a bit shorter: a single word. Yes, once again language organizations around the world tried to sum up all the complexity of 2023 with just one term (admittedly many of them also list several runners up, though). Here’s our annual roundup, which captures the highs and the lows of this year, from artificial intelligence to sports wins. How would you distill the year?
The 2023 Words Of The Year
Chosen By: Oxford Languages
After Oxford Languages chose “goblin mode” last year, it’s less surprising that “rizz” — a notable addition to Gen Z slang — won the title this year. Still, it’s probably gotten more coverage than any other word in 2023, as Gen Z has now taken the mantle of “ruining the English language” from Millennials. The word is a shortening of “charisma,” and it refers to someone’s ability to flirt (you have rizz or you don’t). The word, like all Gen Z phenomena, spread through TikTok, and it peaked in June 2023 thanks to a Tom Holland interview where he used the word.
Hallucinating isn’t new concept. People have been hallucinating for hundreds of years. The word was chosen by two different dictionaries this year because of a slightly newer connotation: computer hallucinations. This refers to the false information that sometimes artificial intelligence tools produce and present as the truth. Hallucinations garnered a lot of attention this year, as people using ChatGPT or other chatbot tools noticed some of the information that was generated was entirely incorrect.
Chosen By: Merriam-Webster
It’s easier than ever to lie on the internet, thanks to any number of tools. This past year saw rising concern about deepfakes, artificial intelligences and good old fashioned conmen. To counterbalance that, being “authentic” has become a valuable skill to have. Massive celebrities like Taylor Swift are lauded for their ability to be their “true selves” despite being watched by millions of people at all times. The very idea that you can perform authenticity exposes the central contradiction of the term, and raises moral questions when “authenticity” becomes just another thing people try to make money off of.
Chosen By: Collins Dictionary
When we look back at 2023, there’s a very good chance it will be seen as an inflection point for artificial intelligence. It was constantly in the news cycle, with tools like ChatGPT and Google Bard making waves. For the first time, many felt like computers were able to match human intelligence (though there’s plenty of argument over how close large language models are to how human brains actually work). It’s not a huge surprise Collins would choose this word then. Runners-up included “deinfluencing,” “nepo baby” and “greedflation.”
Chosen By: Macquarie Dictionary
Cozzie livs is a fun, short way to say “cost of living.” It’s no surprise it was chosen by an Australian dictionary because of the Australian proclivity for shortening words, but it was first used over in the United Kingdom. While it’s fun and cute to say, its selection as a word of the year reflects the fact that many people around the world are still worried about inflation and making enough money to get by. Cozzie livs was chosen by a committee of language experts, but the people’s vote chose generative AI as the word of the year.
Chosen By: Australian National Dictionary Centre
For a happier look at 2023 in Australia, we have the Matildas, which has been the name for the Australian women’s soccer team since the 1990s. The team’s performance in the World Cup boosted them to a new level of superstardom in the country. They were beaten by England in the semi-final 3-1, in one of the most watched games in Australian history.
Chosen By: Japan Kanji Aptitude Testing
The kanji of the year is chosen by popular vote, and this year the winner was 税, meaning “tax.” The kanji was in the news quite a bit over the year because of hikes and cuts in taxes. Japan, like many countries around the world, were fixated on inflation and other economic signals. It narrowly beat out 暑, meaning “heat,” and it’s the second time zei has been chosen (the first time was in 2014, when the consumption tax rate increased countrywide).
Chosen By: German Language Society
Even if you don’t speak German, you might be able to figure out this word’s translation: “crisis mode.” The German Language Society had no shortage of reasons for why the word was chosen: the war in Ukraine, the war in Gaza, national budgetary issues, international inflation, climate change and more. It’s perhaps the bleakest word chosen this year, but by no means is Germany alone in its concerns for the future. Looking at the deeper context for the 2023 words of the year and the runners up reveals that existential threats were on a lot of people’s minds.