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The 2023 Word of the Year is ‘Authentic’

Separating fact from fiction is getting harder. Manipulating images—and creating increasingly convincing deepfakes—is getting easier. As what’s real becomes less clear, authenticity is “something we’re thinking about, writing about, aspiring to and judging more than ever.” This is why Merriam-Webster’s word of the year is “authentic,” the company announced in November of 2023.

Editor Peter Sokolowski said, “Can we trust whether a student wrote this paper? Can we trust whether a politician made this statement? We don’t always trust what we see anymore. We sometimes don’t believe our own eyes or our own ears. We are now recognizing that authenticity is a performance itself.”

According to the announcement from Merriam-Webster, “authentic” is a “high-volume lookup” most years but saw a “substantial increase” in 2023. The dictionary has several definitions for the word, including “not false or imitation,” “true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character” and “worthy of acceptance or belief as conforming to or based on fact,” among others.

Sokolowski said, “We see in 2023 a kind of crisis of authenticity. What we realize is that when we question authenticity, we value it even more.”

Other words that saw spikes this year include “deepfake,” “dystopian,” “doppelgänger,” and “deadname,” per Merriam-Webster. This year’s theme of searching for truth seems fitting following last year’s focus on manipulation. The 2022 word of the year was “gaslighting,” a term that originated from a 1938 play by Patrick Hamilton. In the play, a woman complains that the gas lights in her house are dimming while her husband tries to convince her that it’s all in her head.

Possible Preaching Angle:

As technology’s ability to manipulate reality improves, people are searching for the truth. Only the Word of God contains the absolute truth “your word is truth” (John 17:17), as revealed by Jesus, who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).


Teresa Nowakowski, “Merriam-Webster’s 2023 Word of the Year Is ‘Authentic,’ Smithsonian Magazine (11-29-23)

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