How the slang term 'rizz' became an internet obsession that stumped boomers (and even zoomers)

How the slang term 'rizz' became an internet obsession that stumped boomers (and even zoomers)
TikToks spoofing the "rizz" genre.TikTok / @_those2guys / @d1.dereon.again
  • The word 'rizz' originated with streamers Kai Cenat, Silky, and Duke Dennis.
  • In 2022, the word went viral on TikTok, with many confused about its definition.

Unspoken rizz. W rizz. The rizzler. Rizzard of Oz. Rizz God. Walt Rizney. Theodore Rizzevelt.

These are all wordplays on a new slang that first began as a TikTok in-joke before spiraling into an internet-wide fixation. If you're chronically online or under the age of 25, you might know what "rizz" means. But it's a term so niche and siloed in certain streaming circles that even some zoomers are confused why it's suddenly everywhere.

"Rizz" videos on TikTok have been viewed millions of times each.

In short, the word is a stand-in for "charisma" (or cha-rizz-ma — get it?). According to the digital culture database Know Your Meme, it was first popularized by Twitch streamers Kai Cenat, Silky, and Duke Dennis in 2021. The word is most frequently used in romantic situations to describe someone with swagger, or who can effortlessly charm a potential partner. People have also invented an antonym of the phrase, negative rizz (or "L rizz"), to refer to someone so clumsy or awkward that they push people away.

What rizz originally meant, and how it's been remixed on the internet

Cenat broke down the term on the "No Jumper" podcast last June, explaining that it began as a word he used in private with a close circle of friends. When he first started using it in Twitch streams, it instantly caught on, even though some of his fans thought it was weird.


The phrase became inescapable halfway through 2022 after users started spamming it in TikTok videos and in comment sections. Search interest for the term reach an all-time high in November and December, according to Google Trends. It's now ubiquitous across these platforms. As of January 2023, the tag "rizz" has gained over 6 billion views on TikTok, and derivative tags like "wrizz" and "rizzler" also have hundreds of millions of clicks.

@im.ab #rizz #crewof2 #smooth #AB #fyp #foryoupage ♬ original sound - I’m AB

Some of the most popular clips are jokes, like this video of a guy wagging his finger to summon an entire cross country team towards him. Another video shows a character from the cartoon series "Total Drama" enamoring, or "rizzing up," a couple of sharks by taking off his shirt so they don't devour him.

@tripp0948 Unlimited rizz ;) #mrbeast #rizz #texastech ♬ Me U & Hennessy (feat. Lil Wayne) - DeJ Loaf

Part of the appeal seems to be the elasticity of the word and all the ways it can be reimagined to extend the joke. The word is so transformative and adaptable that it's become a fun pun for real and fictional people — Rizzy Neutron, Kamala Harrizz, Rizz Khalifa, just to name a few. Users have even made "rizz dictionaries" with exhaustive lists of some of the best and worst ones.

How the slang has changed and continues to be transformed

Part of its popularity is because it was initially baffling to internet users who saw it everywhere but didn't know what it meant. There have been tweets with thousands of likes each simply asking people to define it. There was so much mystery surrounding the word that it prompted multiple publications to write in-depth "What is rizz?" explainers (including this one).

However, like all things that travel across social media, the meaning of "rizz" has changed and been diluted.


Nowadays, people comment "rizz" on anything they might find suave, like the way people com"real" or relatable. Creators have also sometimes used it in tandem with specific facial expressions, like the "sigma" look or any kind of manner where the person is trying to look mesmerizing and cool.

The meaning has changed so much that Cenat has reportedly stopped using the word himself. In the podcast interview, Cenat said he believed TikTok "butchered" and "killed" the real meaning of the phrase.

While Google Trends data still shows swaths of people searching and using the term, the official death of "rizz" may come when major corporations appropriate it. We're already seeing some of that happen.

Insider has reached out to Cenat for comment.