'Matilda' named 2023 Word of the Year

‘Matilda’ named 2023 Word of the Year recognising our trailblazing national team

Matildas celebrating

Never before has the word “Matilda” been used as frequently as this year, following the major success and popularity of Australia’s national women’s football team.

The Australian National Dictionary Centre based at the Australian National University (ANU) agree, declaring the word “Matilda” as the 2023 Word of the Year.

Dr Amanda Laugesen, director of the Australian National Dictionary Centre, said it was an easy decision in the end, reflecting the growth of interest in women’s sport around the country.

Although most Australians would now think of Sam Kerr, Mackenzie Arnold, Hayley Raso or any of the star players we watched perform in the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Dr Laugesen reminded fans that the word “Matilda” hasn’t always been synonymous with the soccer side.

“From the 1880s, matilda was one of the names for a swag, a bag of possessions carried by an itinerant man looking for work,” Dr 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 is also a name, typically a female name, originating from Germanic language. But its meaning is also applicable to the tenacity and trailblazing efforts of the national treasures that are our Matildas.

“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 Australia National Dictionary Centre at ANU said a lot of the words on this year’s shortlist for the 2023 Word of the Year referred to the Indigenous Voice to Parliament that majority of the country voted against last month.

Here are the other words on the 2023 Word of the Year Shortlist:

  • “Noer”: a person who intends to vote no in the referendum on a proposed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament; a person who voted no in the referendum
  • “Yesser”: a person who intends to vote yes in the referendum; a person who voted yes in the referendum
  • “Truth-telling”: acknowledging and recognising the historical and ongoing mistreatment and injustices affecting Indigenous peoples in Australia
  • “Hallucinate”: (of artificial intelligence) to generate false or inaccurate information and present it as fact.


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