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Authentic was Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year for 2023, according to the world-famous dictionary company. In a decade where deepfakes and AI saw a significant rise in popularity, it’s not surprising that people across the world were searching for authenticity near and far.

According to Merriam-Webster, searches for the word authentic spiked due to popular stories related to AI, celebrity culture, social media and identity. Taylor Swift and Sam Smith made headlines this year after they expressed the need to find their “authentic” voice and identity in interviews. Before Tesla CEO Elon Musk rebranded Twitter to X, Elon Musk vowed to “authenticate all real humans” on the popular platform. He also encouraged people to be more “authentic” when using social media.

Authentic can have multiple meanings. The word can describe something that is “not false” or an “imitation,” Merriam-Webster notes. It can also be a synonym of real and actual; and a way to describe an individual’s “personality, spirit, or character.”

The word authentic holds significance for many Black individuals and communities for several reasons.

For one, authenticity encompasses the idea of being true to oneself, embracing one’s identity, culture and heritage without compromise. Throughout history, Black people have faced pressures to conform to societal norms that often disregard their unique cultural expressions, traditions and experiences. As a result, authenticity becomes a way to reclaim and celebrate their true selves, free from external expectations and stereotypes.

Additionally, authenticity is linked to representation and visibility. Black individuals have frequently encountered misrepresentations and stereotypes in media, music, literature and other forms of cultural expression. Embracing authenticity allows for the accurate portrayal of diverse Black experiences, challenging stereotypes and helps to promote a more nuanced understanding of our identities.

The word authentic carries weight as a means of validating experiences and narratives that have been historically marginalized or suppressed. It empowers Black individuals to assert their stories, perspectives and histories in their purest and most genuine forms.

In addition to authentic, Rizz and Deepfake also climbed to the top of searches in 2023. Rizz, which was added to the dictionary in September, means “romantic appeal or charm.” The popular word was coined by YouTube star Kai Cenat.

Deepfake is a form of AI that has become controversial over the last few years. According to Forbes, “Deepfake technology enables anyone with a computer and an Internet connection to create realistic-looking photos and videos of people saying and doing things that they did not actually say or do.” In 2018, a deepfake video of President Obama went viral, in which the AI-generated former president called Trump a “dipsh*t.”


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