Merriam-Webster crowns 2023 word of the year

Springfield, Massachusetts - In an age where forces from AI to Donald Trump have left Americans doubting the truth, US dictionary Merriam-Webster says that 2023's most looked-up word was "authentic."

The Merriam-Webster dictionary has announced "authenticity" as its most-searched word of the year.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary has announced "authenticity" as its most-searched word of the year.  © IMAGO / Pond5 Images

The venerable publisher, whose dictionary is especially popular online, said the trend was driven by people reading and talking about artificial intelligence, celebrity culture, identity, and social media.

"Authentic" beat out other contenders such as "deepfake," "rizz" (young-people speak for charisma), and "coronation" for honors as the word that most often sent people to the dictionary.

"Authentic" has several shades of meaning including "not false or imitation," and "true to one's own personality, spirit, or character," Merriam-Webster said.

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"Although clearly a desirable quality, authentic is hard to define and subject to debate – two reasons it sends many people to the dictionary," the publisher said in a news release.

It noted that celebrities such as Taylor Swift talked this year about their interest in seeking an authentic voice or self.

"What makes Swift a cultural phenomenon is not only her musical prowess and versatility but the trademark authenticity she puts on each note and verse," Forbes magazine said in an article published in October.h

Celebrities like Taylor Swift and Elon Musk drive "authenticity" searches

Taylor Swift has been praised for her authenticity in her lyrics.
Taylor Swift has been praised for her authenticity in her lyrics.  © VALERIE MACON / AFP

Elon Musk is big on authenticity, too, or so the tech tycoon says.

At a world government summit in Dubai in February, the outspoken owner of X, the former Twitter, said executives and government leaders should "speak authentically" on social media.

"I think it's good for people to speak in their voice, as opposed to how they think they should speak," he said. "It ends up sounding somewhat stiff and not real."

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This was Merriam-Webster's 20th year of picking one of the half-million words it defines online as the one getting searched most often.

Last year's was "gaslighting" – emotional abuse that makes people question themselves.

In 2021, as the coronavirus pandemic raged, it was "vaccine."

Cover photo: IMAGO / Pond5 Images

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