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Rizz is Oxford's word of the year for 2023. Do you have it?

Rizz is the word of year for 2023, according to the publishers of the Oxford English Dictionary. The term deals with charisma and charm — and other rizzes are available, such as Stockard Channing, center, seen here as Betty "Rizz" Rizzo in the 1978 film <em>Grease</em>.
CBS via Getty Images
Rizz is the word of year for 2023, according to the publishers of the Oxford English Dictionary. The term deals with charisma and charm — and other rizzes are available, such as Stockard Channing, center, seen here as Betty "Rizz" Rizzo in the 1978 film Grease.

Sorry, Swifties. The word of the year for 2023 is "rizz," according to the publishers of the Oxford English Dictionary. Rizz beat out Swiftie, situationship and de-influencing to claim word of the year honors.

The competition celebrates recently created words or expressions that symbolize a period of time, while also "having potential as a term of lasting cultural significance or providing a snapshot of social history," the Oxford University Press said as it announced the winner.

If you're asking what "rizz" means, you're not alone — particularly if you're a generation or so older than Gen Z. But don't feel too left out: There's even a chance that you have rizz without actually knowing what rizz is. And like seemingly everything these days, it can also be a verb.

What's rizz about?

"Rizz is a colloquial word, defined as style, charm, or attractiveness; the ability to attract a romantic or sexual partner," according to the Oxford University Press.

As for the word's etymology, OUP says it's believed to have been taken from the middle of "charisma," much like "fridge" derives from refrigerator. (But that point is in dispute — see below.)

People who have become linked with the term range from actor Tom Holland to sports reporter Shams Charania.

"I have no rizz whatsover," Holland said over the summer, sparking an online debate over the man who is famously dating Zendaya.

Where did all this rizz come from?

Rizz spread like wildfire on TikTok and other platforms after influencer Kai Cenat began using the term on Twitch, where more than 8 million followers watch Cenat livestream himself playing video games, talking with celebrities, pranking his friends and just hanging out.

Cenat also talks about how to approach women — and that's where rizz comes in.

"Rizz started with me and a few of my friends from back home," said the 21-year-old, who grew up in the Bronx, during an interview on the No Jumper podcast. Giving what he called "the official definition," Cenat described a scenario in which a woman goes from being uninterested to being intrigued.

Describing the situation, he added, one might say, "Oh yeah, I rizzed her up. I got mad rizz."

Of course, it's natural for a term related to charm and mystique to resist explanation. Cenat recently said that to him, the word isn't short for anything.

"Rizz meant 'game,' " he said on the Complex video show 360 with Speedy Morman. "People say it's short for charisma. But like, not to me."

How did we get to this point?

Oxford language experts selected rizz from a pool of eight words, weighing their cultural and linguistic heft with more than 32,000 votes from the public on social media and the Oxford Languages website.

"Rizz is a term that has boomed on social media," Oxford Languages President Casper Grathwohl said in a news release, "and speaks to how language that enjoys intense popularity and currency within particular social communities — and even in some cases lose their popularity and become passé — can bleed into the mainstream."

The word beat out other timely finalists such as prompt (in the sense of guiding an AI query), and Swiftie (a Taylor Swift fan, in a massive year for the pop star).

The contenders hint at our zeitgeist. While the word of 2022, "goblin mode," described self-indulgence, this year's top terms center on dealing with others, from situationship (an undefined romantic relationship) to parasocial ("a crush that you have on a person that literally does not even know that you exist" or has no clue of the attraction's intensity, as NPR's Life Kit explains).

The OUP says rizz hints at the growing impact Gen Z will have on society. For his part, Cenat, an adept in the ways of the online world, acknowledges that "rizz" has taken on a life of its own since he popularized it.

"It went crazy internationally," he said earlier this year. "Everybody's saying it now. It's just in people's vocabulary, and that's what it is."

Other rizzes are available

Anyone who might be aged out/creeped out by the "rizz" phenomenon could entertain an alternative theory that's equally unfounded and compelling: What if the term reflects the enduring appeal of Stockard Channing's turn as Betty "Rizz" Rizzo, the independent and sexually clued-in icon from the 1970s film Grease?

Consider this famous nighttime exchange with John Travolta's Danny Zuko in the film:

Danny: "You're looking good, Rizz."

Rizzo: "Eat your heart out."

That, as they say, is rizz.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.