Merriam-Webster picks 'authentic' as the word of the year

Adgully Bureau |

Merriam-Webster has announced "authentic" as the Word of the Year for 2023, underscoring the term's significance in discussions ranging from AI to celebrity culture, identity, and the evolving landscape of social media.

Widely searched in previous years, "authentic" witnessed a substantial surge in 2023, propelled by narratives surrounding AI advancements, the scrutiny of celebrity personas, explorations of personal and national identity, and the complex dynamics of social media interactions.

"Authentic" carries multiple meanings, encompassing "not false or imitation," synonymous with real and actual, as well as "true to one's own personality, spirit, or character." Despite its desirability, the term proves challenging to define definitively, sparking ongoing debates and prompting individuals to turn to the dictionary for clarity.

The concept of authenticity often intertwines with matters of identity, be it on a national or personal scale. Frequently modifying words such as cuisine, dish, self, and voice, "authentic" has become a pivotal descriptor in various contexts. In 2023, high-profile figures like Lainey Wilson, Sam Smith, and Taylor Swift made headlines by emphasizing their pursuit of an "authentic voice" and "authentic self." Swift, in particular, has been associated with pop-culture authenticity, with headlines offering insights like "Three Ways To Tap Into Taylor Swift’s Authenticity And Build An Eras-Like Workplace."

In an era dominated by artificial intelligence, the delineation between the "real" and the "fake" has become increasingly blurred, impacting areas such as deepfake videos, actors' contracts, academic integrity, and a myriad of other subjects.

"Authentic" has become an aspirational quality for brands, social media influencers, and celebrities alike. Elon Musk, a prominent figure in the tech industry, garnered attention by advocating for greater "authenticity" on social media platforms. Apps like BeReal have emerged, placing a premium on capturing "authentic" experiences. However, even as the pursuit of authenticity becomes a focal point, the line between genuine expression and calculated performance continues to be debated.

Rebecca Jennings of Vox says: "Wherever people are supposedly being 'authentic' on the internet, the money will follow." The paradox of "authenticity" now being a performance underscores its transformation into a gold standard for building trust, particularly in the realm of "authentic content creators."