Putting on the “rizz”

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) word of the year (WOTY) for 2023 is “rizz”. It has been selected from a pool of candidates gathered by Oxford’s language research program.

The competition for WOTY is designed to spotlight recently coined words or expressions, that capture the essence of the previous year and possess the potential for long-term cultural significance or offer a snapshot of social history. The contenders often are chosen to reflect the zeitgeist. The OUP suggests that “rizz,” also shows the growing influence of Generation Z on society.

Previous OED words of the year include “goblin mode”, “vax,” “youthquake,” and the crying-while-laughing emoji.

Rizz was also a contender for the Macquarie Dictionary WOTY this year, “cozzie livs” for cost of living being their winner.

The origin of “rizz”

“Rizz” is a colloquial term denoting style, charm, or attractiveness—specifically, the ability to allure a romantic or sexual partner, according to the OED. It is an abbreviation of the word “charisma,” omitting the “char” and “ma” to distil the essence into the “ris” syllable. Use of the double “z” adds an extra dash of flair.

The OED also notes the rarity of a word’s middle section transforming into its shorthand form. Other examples include “fridge” for refrigerator and “flu” for influenza.

The rise of “rizz”

Rizz, in this sense, experienced a surge in popularity in 2023, reaching its high point in June following an interview with Spider-Man star Tom Holland.

During the interview with BuzzFeed, Holland was questioned about the secret to his “rizz,” to which he responded, “I have no rizz whatsoever. I have limited rizz.” (I have borrowed and adjusted the image that accompanied the interview).

The term gained traction on TikTok and other platforms when “influencer” Kai Cenat introduced it on Twitch (an American video live streaming service). Cenat has over 8 million followers and his adoption of “rizz” solidified its place as a buzzworthy term.

The shortlist

Here are the other shortlisted words that were in contention:

Prompt — “an instruction given to an artificial intelligence program, algorithm, etc., which determines or influences the content it generates.”

Situationship — “a romantic or sexual relationship that is not considered to be formal or established.”

Swiftie — “an enthusiastic fan of the singer Taylor Swift.”

Beige flag — “a character trait that indicates that a partner or potential partner is boring or lacks originality.”

De-influencing — “the practice of discouraging people from buying particular products”

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.”