Merriam-Webster's Word of the Year 2023: Authentic

The process by which Merriam-Webster's team of lexicographers choose the word of the year is simple. They look at how many hits and searches words receive, and among the words in the pool, they pick the one that represents the zeitgeist for that year. Last year, it was "gaslighting". And perhaps, it's no surprise then, that the word of the year for 2023 is "authentic".

In choosing the word, Merriam-Webster removes certain words that constantly get looked up like "love" and "affect". They also filter out words which people playing word games search in the dictionary from time to time. What they look at are unusual spikes in searches for certain words such as "EGOT" after Viola Davis' unofficial induction into the club, when she won a Grammy, or "X" when Elon Musk had changed Twitter's name in July.

This year, the rationale behind "authentic" was not from a particular event, but rather due to the continued and constant interest people have placed on the word. Perhaps, the pervasiveness of AI these days may have contributed to people's curiosity for what it means to be "authentic". Maybe the fact that we are constantly inundated with false information and fabricated facts online and even in the real world, provided impetus for lookups of the word.

One evidence as to the extent of our search and need for "authenticity" may be reflected by some other runners-up for word of the year which include "doppelganger" and "deepfake", which was also quite prevalent last year.

No matter what reason people may have in searching for the meaning of the word "authentic", this might just be a message that we, as a whole, are either lacking in authenticity or trying to be more so but are falling short.

(Image credit: Brett Jordan/Unsplash)

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