‘Matilda’ scores as 2023 word of the year

Australia’s national football team has waltzed into the history books again, this time as the namesake for the 2023 word of the year.

Australian National University Dictionary Centre experts on Wednesday declared “matilda” the word of the year after the nation became transfixed over the team’s FIFA Women’s World Cup journey.

The Matildas’ history-making clash against England smashed Australian viewing records, with the semi-final against the Lionesses reaching 11.15 million viewers.

The numbers made it the most-watched program in more than 20 years and the country’s biggest-ever streaming event, a factor experts took into account when naming the word of the year.

“From the 1880s matilda was one of the names for a swag, a bag of possessions carried by an itinerant man looking for work,” dictionary centre director Amanda Laugesen said.

“These days most people would only know this in relation to the song Waltzing Matilda.

“It’s only since the mid-1990s that the women’s soccer team has been called the Matildas, but after this year’s World Cup the word has once again cemented itself in the Australian lexicon.”

The word ultimately comes from the female name but its origins in Australian English were unclear, experts said.

“The original German name refers to strength in battle so it’s an appropriate name for a team that has inspired so many people this year, particularly young women and girls,” Dr Laugesen said.

The centre considered other words for 2023, but ultimately, Dr Laugesen said the choice of matilda was easy given the national team’s massive popularity and the word’s long history in Australian English.

“Yesser” and “noer” made the shortlist in reference to how Australians intended to vote in the voice referendum, as did “truth-telling”, the acknowledgement and recognition of historical and ongoing mistreatment and injustices affecting Indigenous peoples.

“Hallucinate” was also on the 2023 shortlist.

The Australian National University Dictionary Centre edits Oxford’s Australian dictionaries.


Cassandra Morgan
(Australian Associated Press)


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