It's a Rizz-urrection! The Buzz and Backlash of Gen Z's Word of the Year

Jamie Lerner - Author

Dec. 5 2023, Published 11:59 a.m. ET

The Gist:

  • "Rizz" is named Word of the Year by Oxford University Press for 2023.
  • Gen Z's slang term is defined as a blend of charisma and synonymous with style, charm, or attractiveness.
  • Mixed reactions emerge, with debates over the word's legitimacy, its coolness factor, and concerns about generational exclusion as it gains mainstream attention.
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Not everyone has “rizz,” but thanks to the Oxford University Press, everyone is about to know what it means. Gen Z started using the word, “rizz,” as both a noun and a verb, while other generations looked aside and ignored the new slang. It’s believed to be derived from charisma and is now defined by Oxford as slang for “style, charm, or attractiveness.” Basically, if someone has rizz, they can get a date pretty easily.

While the term was insular to Gen Z for the longest time, Oxford has named it 2023’s Word of the Year, so it’s about to hit the mainstream. News outlets, dictionaries, blogs, and online personalities are now using “rizz” for the first time, which means that anyone who uses it might not have the rizz they describe. And the internet’s reactions to naming “rizz” the word of the year vary from laughable to downright angry.

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“Rizz” could be incorporated into college courses.

Amy Pistone tweeted, “Thrilled to watch every college professor suddenly try to integrate rizz into their vocabulary to try to seem cool and hip. ‘So while this is going on in the colonies, Ben Franklin is over there rizzing up the French.’ ‘You know who might have had too much rizz? Alcibiades!’”

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On TikTok, people are asking for a course in “rizzology,” and Oxford University even responded, “Rizzology in the University of Oxford Department of Rizz.” Would people actually take that course? If it helps them get a date, it’s not impossible!

The word, “rizz,” is not actually that cool.

In some ways, Gen Z would probably insist that it’s cool to have rizz, but now that the word is out in the mainstream, we can analyze it like any other word. To Amy A, it sounds like “the most 1920s hardboiled detective-sounding slang possible” and we don’t disagree.

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Word of the year is a “marketing ploy” according to some users.

Luke Dyks tweeted that the word of the year is a “marketing ploy from big dictionary,” to which Oxford University Press responded by saying Luke “lacks rizz.” While we can all make light of rizz taking the award for word of the year, Luke’s (probably ironic) tweet may have some truth to it.

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Paper dictionaries are basically a thing of the past, but people might be inclined to buy new ones as dictionaries add new words. On the other hand, the Word of the Year is also a fun way to see how language evolves and to celebrate that change.

Millennials are mad and out of the loop.

Some people are legitimately mad that “rizz” is the word of the year because most of us have never even heard of it. It was widely used by Gen Z, which leaves millennials, Boomers, Gen X, and others out of the Word of the Year. Plus, it doesn’t define the year for so many of us. Other contenders were “Swiftie” and “situationship,” which are much more fitting for a large swath of the population.

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Gen Z may have won this round, but Gen Alpha is coming up quickly behind them.

“Rizz” was very much a word created, circulated, and defined by Gen Z. One person, likely a millennial, said that they just picture Rizzo the Rat when they hear the word, “rizz,” which means the word isn’t doing a great job to emphasize its meaning. One TikToker commented, “Oxford acknowledged rizz… you win Gen Z.”

But Gen Alpha has its own slang, and they even make fun of Gen Z! So Gen Z might have all the rizz now, but it’s not going to last forever. Soon Gen Z will be in the same boat as millennials and other older generations.

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