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.
Authentic has a number of meanings including “not false or imitation,” a synonym of real and actual; and also “true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character.”
Although clearly a desirable quality, authentic is hard to define and subject to debate — two reasons it sends many people to the dictionary.
Authentic is often connected to identity, whether national or personal: words frequently modified by authentic include cuisine and dish, but also self and voice.
Celebrities like singers Lainey Wilson, Sam Smith, and especially Taylor Swift all made headlines in 2023 with statements about seeking their “authentic voice” and “authentic self.”
Headlines like Three Ways To Tap Into Taylor Swift’s Authenticity And Build An Eras-Like Workplace associate this quality with pop-culture superpower.
With the rise of AI —and its impact on deepfake videos, actors’ contracts, academic honesty, and a vast number of other topics—the line between “real” and “fake” has become increasingly blurred.
Authentic is what brands, social media influencers, and celebrities aspire to be.
Elon Musk made headlines when he said that people should be more “authentic” on social media.
Apps and platforms like BeReal make recording “authentic” experiences their main purpose. No matter how much artifice and calculation goes into the production of these videos, as Rebecca Jennings of Vox puts it, “wherever people are supposedly being ‘authentic’ on the internet, the money will follow.”
Ironically, with “authentic content creators” now recognised as the gold standard for building trust, “authenticity” has become a performance.
Other words also stood out in the dictionary’s 2023 data, including:
Other terms relating to Hamas’s attack and Israel’s military response that saw an increase in lookups were blood libel and intifada.