Portrait of the artist: Selfie named word of 2013

A recent picture of Pope Francis has been touted as the first 'papal selfie'

“Selfie” has been named the word of 2013, beating tough competition from “twerk”, “binge-watch”, and “‘showrooming”.

Editors from Oxford Dictionaries, which made it their word of 2013, said it the word has evolved from a niche social media tag into a mainstream term for a self-portrait photograph.

One of the most famous selfies this year was the Pope posing with teenagers at the Vatican. The picture went viral on social media and was widely speculated as being the first “papal selfie”.

Selfies also made waves this week when a woman from Plymouth claimed a burglar had broken into her flat and taken a selfie on her phone. She subsequently realised she had invited this man in for coffee.

Oxford said the earliest known usage is an Australian online forum post from 2002: “Um, drunk at a mates 21st, I tripped ofer [sic] and landed lip first (with front teeth coming a very close second) on a set of steps. I had a hole about 1cm long right through my bottom lip. And sorry about the focus, it was a selfie.”

A number of spin-off terms are also in circulation, such as helfie (a picture of someone’s hair), belfie (a picture of someone’s behind), welfie (a picture of someone working out), and drelfie (a drunken selfie).

Judy Pearsall, editorial director for Oxford Dictionaries, said: “Social media sites helped to popularise the term, with the hashtag #selfie appearing on the photo-sharing website Flickr as early as 2004, but usage wasn’t widespread until around 2012, when selfie was being used in mainstream media sources.”

Oxford Dictionaries use a research programme which collects around 150m English words currently in use from around the web each month.

Selfie has not yet been added to the Oxford English Dictionary, although it is being considered for future inclusion.

The shortlist for Oxford Dictionaries’ Word of the Year 2013 included binge-watch (to watch multiple episodes of a television programme in rapid succession), showrooming (the practice of examining a product at a shop before buying it online at a lower price), and twerk (dancing in a sexually provocative manner by thrusting hip movements and adopting a low, squatting stance).


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