‘Selfie’ is the Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year for 2013

Alicia Menendez, host of the Fusion network's "Alicia Menendez Tonight," holds up a "selfie" with her production team.
(Wilfredo Lee / Associated Press)

This is how words are born.

In 2002, an Australian man went to his “mate’s” 21st birthday party. He got drunk, tripped on some steps and cut his lip. He took a picture of his injuries and shared it with his friends on an online forum.

“And sorry about the focus,” he wrote, “it was a selfie.”

That was the first recorded use of the word “selfie,” according to the word mavens at the Oxford Dictionaries, who research such things.


On Tuesday, the Oxford Dictionaries declared “selfie” the word of the year for 2013, in honor of the relatively young coinage having taken over the world thanks to millions of smartphone self-portraits and the resulting shares in social media.

In 2004, two years after that blitzed Aussie coined the neologism, the word had spread enough that Flickr created the hashtag #selfie on its website. But research by Oxford Dictionaries editors found that the frequency of “selfie in the English language has increased by 17,000% since this time last year.

“The word gained momentum throughout the English-speaking world in 2013 as it evolved from a social media buzzword to mainstream shorthand for a self-portrait photograph,” Oxford Dictionaries wrote in a news release. “Its linguistic productivity is already evident in the creation of numerous related spin-off terms showcasing particular parts of the body like helfie (a picture of one’s hair) and belfie (a picture of one’s posterior); a particular activity -- welfie (workout selfie) and drelfie (drunken selfie), and even items of furniture -- shelfie and bookshelfie.”

Selfie was the top word on a shortlist of trendy new words and expressions on the Oxford list that included a few others that seem likely to endure.

“Binge-watch,” which is what a lot of people did when the series “Breaking Bad” was ending (“watch multiple episodes of a television program in rapid succession”) and “bitcoin” (a digital currency) may be with us for a long time. But I’m not to sure “showrooming” is widespread enough to have much life as a coinage (it means “the practice of visiting a shop or shops in order to examine a product before buying it online at a lower price.”)

And the jury may still be out on “twerk,” which means to “dance to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low, squatting stance.”


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