The buzz behind ‘rizz’: Exploring Oxford’s 2023 Word of the Year

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Group of happy students having chat with talking each other while sitting on college campus

Group of happy students having chat with talking each other while sitting on college campus
| Photo Credit: Lakshmiprasad S

Have you got the ‘rizz’? 

Does that sound baffling? We asked a few people to guess the word’s meaning. Here are a few answers we got: 

“I am feeling clueless here. What does that even mean?” 

“My honest reaction was ‘huh’? Then I became ‘ya, okay then’”

“At first, I was confused, but later it seemed very cool.” 

“I feel our generation is willing to say anything to be cool. Rizz is an example. Even that weird Delulu.”

“I liked how it has a ‘zzz’ at the end.” 

This four-letter word, used by many Gen Zs of late, has been announced as the Oxford University Press’s (OUP) word of the year. It was chosed over seven other shortlisted words — swiftie, situationship, beige flag, heat dome, de-influencing, parasocial, and prompt. 

Rizz, according to OUP, means “style, charm, or attractiveness; the ability to attract a romantic or sexual partner.”

Kai Cenat, a Twitch streamer and YouTuber, is widely credited with popularising the word, which he used with his close friends. Some influencers even call themselves the ‘ultimate rizzlord’. In an interview with BuzzFeed Celeb, Hollywood actor Tom Holland, said: “I have no rizz whatsoever. I have limited rizz.” This celebrity endorsement surged the popularity of the slang.

Evolving language

Neologisms (coining new words) are essential for a language’s evolution. “As lexicographers, we are constantly interested in new coinages and changes in meaning for established words. This means that a lexicographer’s initial thought is, ‘Do we have a record of this on file for future consideration?’” said Jonathan Dent, Senior Editor of Oxford English Dictionary, UK. 

“David Crystal said that English has been a vacuum cleaner of a language because of its ability to take up new words quickly. If a language is not open to change, then technically it is dead”, said Aditi Ghosh, a linguistics professor at the University of Calcutta.   

Making slang out of a particular word is not new. “Over time, some slang can fade or gradually become standard language. For example, omnibus became ‘bus’; now, bus is the only word. Words become obsolete or change their meaning. This cycle helps a language survive,” added Aditi.

The Oxford language experts were interested in how the word came into existence, only using the middle part of the word ‘charisma’, similar to refrigerator (fridge) and influenza (flu).

Over the last two years, Oxford has been asking the public to vote for their favourite words considering the collaborative aspect of linguistic change. 

“Language change and innovation are faster due to online communities and social media platforms, enabling the rapid distribution of new vocabulary,” said Dent, “Words and phrases, particularly slang or informal English, can experience intense popularity and currency within these communities before escaping mainstream use.”

Oxford language experts are finding more examples of words produced, shaped, and exchanged inside smaller communities before becoming prevalent in society. It relates to how younger generations influence the language, online and offline. 

So next time, while trying to charm someone, keep your rizz skills ready under your sleeves.

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