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How to Choose Your 2024 Word of the Year

by Dr. Bruce Ellis
Warm sunlight streams through a gothic window into a cozy library with towering bookshelves, an open book on a table, and a classic clock atop a shelf.

In the new year, it’s always interesting to look back to see what was popular and new in the previous year. Critics share their top movies and TV shows. Search engines list the top searches. There are top hits for music, bestseller lists for books, and so on. But did you realize that dictionaries choose a “word of the year?” Sometimes, the various dictionaries agree on this word, but not always. Words chosen may be newly added to their dictionary, or they may be an expansion of a definition to include a new way a word has been used.

Word of the Year for 2023

Each year, there are discussions, debates, and votes to select a word of the year. They seek to choose a word that best captures the spirit, concerns, and significant trends of the time — a word that shows promise of becoming an important cultural term.

This year, Oxford Dictionary has chosen “rizz as the word of the year. Short for charisma, rizz means style, charm, or attractiveness. There was a significant increase in usage of a 2023 interview with Tom Holland during which he used the word.

Dicitionary.com identified their word for the year: “hallucinate.” When referring to artificial intelligence, this word means to produce false information contrary to the user’s intent and present it as true and factual. The definition of hallucinate has been updated to include this meaning.

Merriam-Webster has decided that the word of the year is “authentic.” Authentic refers to something genuine, real, or true, rather than being a copy or imitation. This word saw a significant boost in lookups in 2023 “driven by stories and conversations about AI, celebrity culture, identity, and social media.”

My Word of the Year for 2024

Seeing the various words chosen for 2023 as “Word of the Year” got me thinking about my word for this upcoming year. Sure, these words represent the previous year, but what about choosing a word to set intentions moving forward? Do I want it to highlight relationships I want to build and go deeper with this year? Maybe an adjective to describe growth in areas I’ve wanted to work on but have been too busy for? Possibly an adverb that adds more intentionality to actions I’ll be taking this year? The possibilities are endless. For me, choosing this word is akin to deciding what I want to order when I go to The Cheesecake Factory. There are way too many options to choose from.

My word for the new year is “initiative.” Yes, I know it isn’t a new word, but it’s the one I’ve chosen as my guiding force for 2024.

Initiative refers to the ability and willingness to take independent and proactive actions to achieve a particular goal or bring about a desired outcome.

OpenAI. (2024). ChatGPT [Large language model]. https://chat.openai.com

I have a list of goals I’ve made— some immediate, some short-term, and some long-term. In the process of making my list, I realized I wanted to make progress in many areas this year. The word “initiative” encapsulates the essence of being proactive, taking charge, and making things happen. This word aligns with my desire to move forward intentionally. It also serves as a personal reminder to overcome motivation challenges and act as my accountability partner.

Choose Your Word of the Year

What will your word be for this year? Consider using this prompt in your favorite generative AI assistant, like Claude or ChatGPT, to guide you in finding your word for 2024.

I'm looking to choose a focus word for the year to help guide my goals. Help me find a word that resonates with my aspirations and challenges? Please ask me a series of questions, one at a time, to understand my main goal and what I want to achieve. Once you have enough information, suggest a word that should be my focus for this year.

Once you have your word, drop it in the comments below! Feel free to share information about why it’s the word for you. Post your word in a place at home and/or work where you’ll be reminded throughout the year of the intention you’ve set moving forward.

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Lori Gracey January 22, 2024 - 10:18 am

What a great idea and a powerful prompt! ChatGPT was really useful in helping me think through my focus for 2024. My word is “renewal,” helping me to overcome my cancer and be kinder to everyone. Thanks, Bruce!

Bill Bauman January 22, 2024 - 11:22 am

It led me to the word “catalyst.” I am in a role that is new to me and to the district I moved to. As an Equity & Instructional Coach I need to help them find ways to change old and non-productive habits they have established over many years. The district population has changed greatly and what was being done was not serving the students as they need to reach their potential.

JJ Pool January 22, 2024 - 11:36 am

Thank you for this! My word for the year is Harmony. This is my why?
Given your focus on digitizing sentimental items and fostering awesomeness in your home and finances, a fitting focus word for the year could be “Harmony.” This word encapsulates the idea of balance, blending sentimental value with a clutter-free environment while achieving financial stability.


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