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What is ‘rizz’ – and do you have it?

Tom Holland and Zendaya attend SiriusXM's Town Hall with the cast of Spider-Man: No Way Home on December 10, 2021 in New York City.
Spider-Man star Tom Holland modestly told interviewers: 'I have no rizz whatsoever' - Cindy Ord/Getty Images

Who has the most rizz: Prince Harry, Nigel Farage or George Clooney? If you don’t immediately know the answer then the problem is likely to be your understanding of the term rizz – aka Oxford University Press’s word of the year.

To be fair, most people who aren’t Generation Z or terminally online haven’t had much interaction with the word. But for those in the know, rizz is what many of us are hoping to find under the mistletoe this Christmas. Slang for romantic appeal and the ability to attract a partner with ease, it is what people over 50 might call charm – or someone who millennials two decades ago might have deemed “fit”.

Recorded uses of the word “rizz” have increased dramatically this year, peaking in June when Spider-Man actor Tom Holland was asked about his “rizz” in a widely shared interview. Luckily he is 27, so instead of looking baffled by the question, he was able to modestly answer, “Oh, I have no rizz whatsoever.” Given his girlfriend is the very beautiful Zendaya, this seems unlikely – although we all know that a British man with true rizz would never admit to having any.

For anyone confused about the etymology of a term that sounds like a reference to cigarette paper, it apparently comes from charisma – and while it is unusual to form an abbreviation from the middle of a word, acolytes think it may become as popular as “fridge” (from refrigerator) and “flu” (from influenza).

Although if you’re feeling really confident this Christmas, the way to use it is as a verb: anyone planning “to rizz up” at a party is on a serious mission to seduce. And why stop there? Perhaps single people could emulate Michael Caine in Alfie and “go on the rizz” every Friday in December. And if you’re feeling the January slump and the need for a warm body to watch box-sets with, pump some rizz at the gym.

The question on most of our lips though is: do I have any rizz? It’s a difficult one to answer as, yes, attractive, confident people usually find it particularly easy to charm, but what rizz is also varies wildly according to your age, gender and which country you live in. Someone of 60 radiating rizz at a dinner party will likely be working rather different lines to someone of 16 being rizzy at a rave (although both will probably be unusually good at appearing interested in what the other person is saying).

And when Holland said he had none whatsoever, what he probably meant was that he didn’t embody the American version of the term – which in male form in somewhere like Los Angeles tends to mean having a perfect body and buying a lot of expensive drinks while making it clear how rich and successful you are.

In France, however, another word for rizz could be their famous “la seduction” – an integral part of local culture which is embodied by the concept of embracing beauty and sensual pleasures.

And yet, anyone too focused on “the sensual” in Britain would be deemed a bit weird. Here, I suspect that having lots of rizz is mostly about being quite funny and a bit self-deprecating, while also being kind and talented at something, and ticking a few of the conventionally attractive boxes. But that’s just me – the beauty of rizz is that, in the end, it’s open to interpretation: your rizz-maestro might leave me cold, and vice versa.

And so all that’s left is to wish you a rizz-filled Christmas season – whether than means finding someone rizz-tastic to entertain you at dinner before going home with your spouse, being heavily seduced over the mince pies, or discovering, as a group of wide-eyed fans hang on every word of your story, that it is, in fact, you who is master of the rizz.