2023 – Words of the Year

For the first time since COVID  hit in 2020, this year’s words of the year aren’t about the pandemic. Instead they are mainly concerned with a different kind of rapidly spreading phenomenon: Artificial Intelligence. 

In this article we’ll go through 5 major English language dictionary’s choices for word of the year, explaining what the words mean, and most importantly, how to pronounce them. 

5. authentic /ɔːˈθɛntɪk/

Merriam Webster, the popular American English dictionary went with ‘authentic’ as its word of the year. It saw a big increase in searches for this word in 2023.

Although it isn’t a new word, it has adopted a new significance since the mainstream arrivals of social media and artificial intelligence. Both have left many wondering what exactly is “authentic”.

The pope running away from police probably isn’t authentic. But neither is a staged TikTok comedy scene, or an influencer who is trying to look natural whilst explaining the advantages of a fake tan. 

The word actually sounds slightly different in American English, starting on a schwa /əˈθentɪk/ whereas in British it’s with /ɔː/ /ɔːθɛntɪk/.

Though which pronunciation is the authentic one, remains to be seen...

4. AI /ˌeɪˈʌɪ/

‘the modelling of human mental functions by computer programs’

To some, AI signifies the potential freedom of humanity from the constraints of work, poor health, inequality and ecological disaster, freeing up our time to put our feet up and let the robots do the work.

Others imagine it will bring an abrupt end to civilisation by deciding to wipe humans out completely. So there’s quite a range of opinions out there! 

What is unquestionable is that we are now in a new and very rapidly changing world defined by these two letters. 

In abbreviated form, its pronunciation is 2 diphthongs /eɪ/ and /ʌɪ/. On its own, the stress is on /ʌɪ/ – ˌAˈI, but if any content word appears after it, the stress shifts to that, so ˌAI ˈRobot, for example. 

You can also hard attack both syllables, giving [ˌʔeɪ ˈʔʌɪ].

3. hallucinate /həˈluːsɪneɪt/

Cambridge’s word of the year is a very old word indeed, dating back to the 17th century and having its roots in the Latin word ‘alucinatus’.

Previously associated with the mind-altered states caused by certain recreational drugs or mental conditions, hallucinate has taken on a new meaning recently. It’s when an Artificial Intelligence bot misunderstands its prompt and comes up with a ridiculous or wrong solution. 

Common examples currently include chatbots inventing events or qualifications, and image generators producing bizarre images. Hands seem to be a particular problem. 

In keeping with its meaning, the pronunciation of hallucinate can change quite a lot

It’s a word that starts on a glottal fricative /h/ and ends on an alveolar /t/ in standard English, but in regional accents it could easily begin and end on glottal stops: [ʔəˈluˑsɪneɪʔ].

2. cozzie livs /ˌkɒzi ˈlɪvz/

The first thing to note about number 2 in this list, is that down under in Australia they love an abbreviation  or Australianism as they are affectionately known.

‘arvo’ is afternoon, ‘yewy’ is U-turn, and ‘barbie’ isn’t just a doll, it’s also a barbecue. A barbie barbie would be an interesting event indeed.

So when the world experiences a Cost of Living Crisis, which sounds a bit bleak and a bit long, what are the Aussies gonna do?

That’s right, Cozzie Livs is Australian dictionary Macquierie’s word of the year. The abbreviation reportedly originated in the UK, but it didn’t catch on in quite the same way.

1. rizz /rɪz/

Oxford’s word of the year, and our pick of the bunch is RIZZ. It appears to have started with online video streamer Kai Cenat using it occasionally in his feeds, and slowly then very quickly it spread through social media. 

Essentially, it’s a young person’s way of saying ‘charisma’ – so you ‘have Rizz’ in the same way you’d ‘have charisma’.

But it’s more flexible than the older word – you can ‘rizz someone up’, for example which means that you use your rizz to attract them. 

This kind of wilful attempt to attract people is in direct opposition to Oxford’s 2022 word of the yearGoblin Mode, referring to post-pandemic apathy. 

And its noteworthy that having Rizz is a very human thing. Artificial Intelligence, for all its mind-boggling potential, will likely struggle for a long time to have any rizz at all. 

Although it’s short, for second language speakers, it’s not the easiest word to pronounce – starting with a smooth alveolar /r/, it moves to a near-close, near-front /ɪ/ and ends on a voiced /z/. The combination is unusual in many languages, so let’s give it a go: /rɪz/.