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‘Matilda’ Australia’s word of the year

‚Matilda‘ has been awarded Word of the Year by the Australian National Dictionary, and we’re in full agreement. 

With six weeks left of the year to go, we can safely say that one of the very best parts of 2023 was watching the rise and rise of the Matildas. 

The FIFA Women’s World Cup has historically been underappreciated, as compared with the men’s rendition, but this year everything changed. With the World Cup taking place on home soil across July and August, it brought a level of attention and enthusiasm that the game has never seen before in Australia and New Zealand. 

Basically, it was marvellous. And fortunately, the top dogs at the Australian National Dictionary agree, choosing ‘Matilda’ as the country’s Word of the Year. 

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Every year, the Australian National Dictionary Centre, based at the Australian National University in Canberra, picks a word that has gained particular “prominence in the Australian landscape over the past 12 months.” 

It can be based on politics, pop culture, sport, health or any other topic, as long as it is deemed particularly significant for Australians over the past 12 months. 

Dr Amanda Laugesen, the director of the Centre, said the choice for 2023’s word was easy, given how much the Matildas football team occupied Australia’s cultural consciousness this year. 

“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,” says Laugesen. 

“As an editorial team … we’re looking to highlight a word that has been significant and represents something about Australia each year,” senior researcher at the Australian National Dictionary Centre, Mark Gwynn, told ABC Radio Canberra.

“Basically where the team’s name comes from, matilda meaning a swag, as in ‘Waltzing Matilda’, is one of the reasons we chose the word.

“Not only has it been so significant this year, but also it’s got a great and long history in Australian English.”

The Matildas’ performance in the World Cup wasn’t just a big moment emotionally. The games smashed viewing records, and ticket and merch sales – across the men’s and women’s competitions – ushering in a new era for women in sport.

In fact, their semi-final game against the English Lionesses was the most-watched TV program in Australian television history, reaching more than 11 million people. And that doesn’t even begin to factor in how many people were watching the game out at pubs and on shared screens. 

In the wake of the tournament, memberships at every A-league football club have increased around the country, and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese also announced a $200 million Play Our Way scheme, to bolster participation in and funding of women’s sport across the country. 

With a CV that impressive over just a couple of months, we can’t think of a more fitting word to sum up Australia’s 2023. As the 2024 Olympics draws ever closer, here’s hoping the support of the Matildas only continues to grow – in the form of Dictionary awards, viewers, and ticket sales. It’s what our girls deserve.

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