The fact that "authentic" is Merriam-Webster's word of the year may not come as a surprise given how much the crucial issue of truth and facts continues to dominate current affairs and is also associated with Taylor Swift, Elon Musk and Sam Smith.
Although there has been a lot of interest in the definition of the word for a number of years, according to the online dictionary, 2023 saw a “substantial increase,” thanks to “stories and conversations about AI, celebrity culture, identity, and social media.”
The reason so many look it up is because “authentic” has several meanings, according to the announcement on the dictionary’s website, including “not false or imitation” and “true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character.”
According to Merriam-Webster, authentic is a synonym for real and actual and is "clearly a desirable quality." It is frequently associated with displays of identity, like food.
The dictionary said that singers Lainey Wilson, Sam Smith, and Taylor Swift—all of whom have made headlines this year with declarations about pursuing their “authentic voice” and “authentic self.”
Elon Musk, who has advocated for people to be more "authentic" on social media, is another admirer. But early this year, that started to become more of a problem when Musk, the new CEO of X (formerly Twitter), removed the iconic blue tick symbol of legitimacy and made it exclusively available for a fee.
The increasing prevalence of artificial intelligence has caused a blurring of the boundaries between reality and virtual reality, prompting celebrities, corporations, and social media influencers to demonstrate their authenticity.
The nearly related word "deepfake" was another that stood out in searches this year, according to the dictionary.
This is what Merriam-Webster defines as “an image or recording that has been convincingly altered and manipulated to misrepresent someone as doing or saying something that was not actually done or said.”
According to the dictionary, there was a notable surge in searches for the phrase in April and early May, coinciding with Musk's legal team's contention that he shouldn't be required to provide evidence on his public remarks since some of them could have been deepfakes. The argument was not accepted. A prominent news article this year featured deepfake photos that purported to depict the late President Donald Trump being dramatically arrested by the police in March.
"Gaslighting" was selected by Merriam-Webster as the word of the year for 2022, citing its widespread usage in the "age of misinformation."
Other terms that drove a lot of users to the online dictionary in 2023 were doppelgänger, coronation, dystopian, and indict.
In September, however, "rizz" shot to the "top of lookups" as the dictionary included an example of slang that has been influenced by the internet.
For the uninitiated, Merriam-Webster explained: “As a noun, rizz means ‘romantic appeal or charm’ (as in ‘a bro who has rizz’); as a verb (typically used with up, as in ‘rizz up that cutie’) it means ‘to charm or seduce.’”
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