What Exactly Is Rizz? Do You Have Any? Should You Want To?

It might be the most annoying slang word the internet has birthed, but we're here to explain it nonetheless 

March 1, 2023 7:00 am
Three TikTok videos of young men using the term rizz.
The newfound dating term has quickly taken over TikTok.

He’s got negative rizz. He’s got unspoken rizz. He’s gonna rizz her up. Rizzy rizz rizz rizz. It’s all the youths can say these days, and maybe it’s a word you’ve even overheard your own offspring using. If you’re wondering what the hell they’re talking about, allow us to explain to you what may be the worst slang word to come out of the internet in recent years. 

What does rizz mean?

It’s not that deep.

Rizz is simply a shortened term for charisma. “Having rizz” essentially means you’ve got game. You’re able to charm and seduce potential lovers with impressive ease, typically through verbal communication. It seems the dating term is used most commonly by young heterosexual men, evaluating their own or fellow men’s ability to nab women. 

Who is responsible for it?

The creation and initial spread of the term rizz originated from social media personality and Twitch streamer Kai Cenat, who explained in a June 2022 interview on the podcast No Jumper that he first started using the term offline with friends, then began using it on his streams. Cenat also broke down what it means to “rizz someone up” on the podcast:

“Rizz is when you’re talking to a girl, and at first, shit is not going your way. It’s looking bad for you until you spit game and you’re rizzing them up to where shit starts to go your way,” he said. “You’re so slick with your words and what you’re saying to where the girl is like, ‘Okay, yeah, who is this?!’ After shit goes your way, you’re like, ‘Yeah, I rizzed her up. I’ve got mad rizz.’”

However, Cenat has since tried to distance himself from the term, blaming TikTok for butchering it.

For whatever reason, the term finally blew up over the last six months or so, and now it’s hard to go a day without seeing the word used in some capacity on the internet, specifically on TikTok. 

How is the term being used?

On No Jumper, Cenat took umbrage with the way rizz has evolved from his original use. 

Citing “unspoken rizz,” a new variation of the term created by other internet users, Cenat says the phrase has really nothing to do with the OG slang word. “Unspoken rizz” is being able to pull a romantic partner by mere debonair presence alone — no speaking required. However, according to Cenat, verbal communication is an integral part of having rizz, so the newfound term, he claims, doesn’t qualify. 

You’ve also likely come across another variation of the term, “negative rizz,” which is pretty self-explanatory. You, regrettably, have zero game. Other times, users will simply comment “rizz” on any video or media they interpret to be smooth. 

Names of celebrities, historical figures, films and television shows are now commonly remixed with the slang term. On TikTok and Reddit, you can find lengthy lists – called “rizzionaries” — that feature practically any noun or phrase infused with rizz. Examples include Kamala Harizz, Rizzosaurus Rex and Rizzolph the Rizz-nosed rizzdeer. 

Why does it suck so bad?

Maybe it’s simply because any word or phrase large swaths of teenage boys find funny and say nonstop gives me the ick — and a pang of dread that it will eventually devolve into something misogynistic — that I’m not super keen on the new viral term. But my gut reaction might not be so off.

A handful of TikTok videos have linked rizz with the “sigma face,” a meme that copies a specific sneering look Christian Bales’ Patrick Bateman makes in American Psycho.

Content of Bales’ portrayal of the Wall Street killer is quite popular on the video-sharing app, and it’s related to another meme that’s referred to as “sigma grindset.” As writer Ruchira Sharma called out in a November 2022 article for British GQ, young male TikTok users have an adoration for Bateman, “his hustle mindset,” wealth, aggressive gym routine and contempt for women. However, other portrayals of sigma males (Leonardo Di Caprio as Jordan Belfort, for example) and the sigma mindset, in general, are also widespread on TikTok.

Those who follow the sigma mindset believe in extremely outdated and harmful hypermasculine/alpha-male ideals, specifically surrounding fitness, wealth and dating. The concept of sigmas has its origins in the manosphere, a decades-old network of online communities notorious for their rampant misogyny and anti-feminist rhetoric. It’s where men’s rights activists, incels and the like congregate to discuss how and why women are the root of all their problems. 

I’ll also argue the act of “rizzing someone up” gives off pick-up artist vibes, another community you can find within the manosphere, one that has a storied history of manipulating and objectifying women.

This might be best exemplified by the overwhelming number of man-on-the-street-style interviews circulating TikTok wherein teenage boys and college-aged men are tasked with trying to “rizz up” random women on camera, sometimes for a cash prize. “Let’s stop embarrassing ourselves by bothering strangers and leave the rizz behind in 2022,” argued Buzzfeed News reporter Pocharapon Neammanee last December regarding the trend. 

Unfortunately, the rizz is still alive and well in 2023, judging by the numerous videos of outwardly nervous dudes awkwardly asking for unsuspecting girls’ numbers still popping up on my For You page. These rizz challenges on TikTok seem to have gamified the act of talking to and interacting with women, this time, to a much younger audience.

Asking out someone you like/find attractive can be an embarrassing, nerve-wracking and disheartening experience at any age, but particularly when you’re young. So it feels a tad worrisome that this term is being used in large part by adolescent men who are presumably pursuing romantic interests for the first time, and now likely believe the only way to get someone’s number is to be a “rizz god” or whatever — especially now that the term is being associated with sigma male practices. 

Ideally, the term will fizzle out (rizzle out?) soon and just become another corny entry in our ever-growing internet lexicon and not the catalyst for a future dating advice book called The Rizz. But the term’s swift evolution is giving me whiplash and apprehension about what it’ll evolve into next. 

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