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‘Authentic’ is Merriam-Webster’s word of the year—see the other 13 words that defined 2023

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Did you try to be more authentic this year? Were you trying to figure out what “authentic” even means?

Either way, you weren’t alone: It’s Merriam-Webster’s word of the year for 2023, an annual recognition given to a word that dominates searches and lookup volume on the dictionary’s website.

“A high-volume lookup most years, authentic saw a substantial increase in 2023, driven by stories and conversations about AI, celebrity culture, identity, and social media,” the dictionary’s announcement said on Monday, adding: “Although clearly a desirable quality, authentic is hard to define and subject to debate — two reasons it sends many people to the dictionary.”

Most conversations around authenticity tend to focus on whether you’re acting like a relatable, normal person or putting on a front for the people around you. It’s an important distinction: Coming across as phony can be alienating, while conveying authenticity can help you amass popularity and inspire others, surveys show.

These inauthentic phrases in workplace emails are common red flags, executive coach Rebecca Zucker told CNBC Make It last year:

  • “Not sure if you saw my last email”
  • “Per our conversation”
  • “I hope this email finds you well”
  • Using the same sign-off for every email, like “warmly,” “best” or “sincerely”

But authenticity can be a double-edged sword. Trying too hard to be natural or relatable often seems fake, Merriam-Webster’s announcement noted: “Ironically, with ‘authentic content creators’ now recognized as the gold standard for building trust, ‘authenticity’ has become a performance.”

The concept can even be a crutch that hinders your career growth, London School of Economics professor Herminia Ibarra told Make It last month. If you need to alter your behaviors or habits to excel at your job, claiming that such a change isn’t true to who you are may be a poor excuse to avoid hard work, Ibarra said.

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The other 13 words that defined 2023

Authenticity wasn’t the only buzzword to see a jolt of popularity on Merriam-Webster’s website this year, the dictionary said. Here are the other 13 words it highlighted as standouts:

  • Rizz
  • Deepfake
  • Coronation
  • Dystopian
  • EGOT
  • X
  • Implode
  • Doppelgänger
  • Covenant
  • Indict
  • Elemental
  • Kibbutz
  • Deadname

Last year, Merriam-Webster’s word of the year was “gaslighting.” In 2021 and 2020, the words were “vaccine” and “pandemic,” respectively.

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Source: NBC New York

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