Merriam-Webster chooses Word of the Year for 2023

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The Word of the Year for 2023, chosen by Merriam-Webster, perfectly mirrors one of the main concerns of the year: the challenge of distinguishing between “real” and “fake.” In an era of post-truth, widespread use of ChatGPT, and the proliferation of deepfakes, the boundary between what is “real” and what is “fake” has become increasingly unclear. It is quite appropriate then that Merriam-Webster has selected the word “authentic” as the word of the year for 2023.

According to Merriam-Webster, “authentic” has several meanings, including “not false or imitation,” a synonym for real and actual, and also “true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character.” Although “authentic” is undoubtedly a desirable quality, its definition is elusive and open to debate. Lookups for the word have been consistently high on the dictionary company’s site but experienced a significant increase throughout the year, as noted by lexicologist and editor at large Peter Sokolowski. “We are witnessing in 2023 a sort of crisis of authenticity,” he stated before the announcement of this year’s word. “What we realize is that when we question authenticity, we value it even more.”

Indeed, in 2023, the term “authentic” saw a substantial rise in usage, driven by discussions and stories about AI, celebrity culture, identity, and social media. This year was marked by not only the prominence of artificial intelligence but also a moment when the ChatGPT-maker OpenAI faced a leadership crisis.

“Authentic” is Merriam-Webster’s word of the year for 2023. Other top words considered include “X” (due to Elon Musk’s rebranding of Twitter), “EGOT” (spiked after Viola Davis won a Grammy), and “Elemental” (from a Pixar film). The top words also include “RIZZ” (slang for romantic appeal), “DEEPFAKE” (due to altered videos), “CORONATION” (spiked after King Charles III’s coronation), “DYSTOPIAN” (due to climate chaos and media), “IMPLODE” (after the Titanic submersible incident), “DOPPELGANGER” (surrounding Naomi Klein’s book release), “COVENANT” (following a deadly mass shooting in Nashville), “INDICT” (spiked after Donald Trump’s legal cases), “KIBBUTZ” (following Hamas attacks), and “DEADNAME” (due to transgender rights legislation).

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