UK-to-US Word of the Year 2022: fit

Having let the year run its course, I'm now am ready to declare the Separated by a Common Language Words of the Year for 2022. As ever, there are two categories: US-to-UK and UK-to-US.  To be a SbaCL WoTY, the word just needs to have been noticeable in some way that year in the other country. 

For past WotYs, see here. And now...

The 2022 UK-to-US Word of the Year is: fit

Now, of course the word fit is general English when we use it in contexts like The shoes fit or I'm going to get fit this year. But those fits are not my UK-to-US Word of the Year. The fit I'm talking about is the informal British usage that means 'attractive, sexy'. A close (orig.) AmE synonym is hot

Ben Yagoda, on his Not One-Off Britishisms blog, first noticed this sense of fit in an American context back in 2013, but it seems to have taken hold in the US in the past couple of years. I assume this is due to the international popularity of the British television (BrE) programme/(AmE) show Love Island

Here's a clear example of this sense of fit from another UK reality series, Made in Chelsea.*

I like that video just because it's clearly fit meaning 'hot' rather than 'healthy and/or muscular', but if you'd like to hear it said on Love Island, then you can hear it here at 1:38 (though the YouTube automatic subtitling mishears it as fair).


This use of the word is new enough to the US that it's included in glossaries for American Love Island fans, like this one and this one. The Oxford English Dictionary added it in 2001:

  British slang. Sexually attractive, good-looking.

1985   Observer 28 Apr. 45/1   ‘Better 'en that bird you blagged last night.’ ‘F—— off! She was fit.’
1993   V. Headley Excess iv. 21   ‘So wait; dat fit brown girl who live by de church ah nuh your t'ing?!’ he asked eyebrows raised.
1999   FHM June (Best of Bar Room Jokes & True Stories Suppl.) 21/1   My first night there, I got arseholed, hit the jackpot and retired with my fit flatmate to her room.
2000   Gloucester Citizen (Nexis) 14 Feb. 11   I would choose Gillian Anderson from the X-Files, because she's dead fit.

Green's Dictionary of Slang has one 19th-century example, but notes that "(later 20C+ use is chiefly UK black)." 

I can't give statistics on how often this fit is use in the US because (a) the word has many other common meanings, making it very difficult to search for in corpora, and (b) this particular meaning is not likely to make it into print all that often. (Slang is like that.) Ben Yagoda considers fit "still an outlier" in AmE. But Ben's probably not in the right demographic for hearing it. 

An anonymous blog reader nominated it, and it struck me as apt for 2022—the popularity of "Love Island UK" (as it's called in the US) was hard to miss on my visit to the US this summer. I got to hear my brother (whose [AmE] college-student daughter loves the show) imitating the contestants, throwing in words like fit. I can easily find young US people using and discussing 'sexy' fit on social media (though I won't share their examples here because those young people didn't ask for the attention). And it made it onto Saturday Night Live, in a sketch about Love Island. You can hear proper fit at 1:11:

So Happy New Year to you! I wrote this post after watching the fireworks (on tv) at midnight. Now I'm (BrE humorous) off to Bedfordshire, so I'll leave the other WotY for tomorrow. Stay tuned for the US-to-UK WotY! 

*Update: I'm told that the Made in Chelsea video does not play in the US. Here's a quick transcript of the relevant bit:

Scene: Two male cast members on a sofa, commenting on this video shot of a female cast member:

M1: God, she's fit. 

M2: She is so hot.

M1:  So fit.



  1. I first saw the word used in that context by an English gay magazine called Fit Lads in about 2004. It took me a while to understand its loaded meaning.

  2. This seems a bit of a stretch, considering the only American examples you can give are referencing this one British show. It has yet to have any significant usage outside of that context.

    For example, Harry Potter introduced Americans to ginger as an alternative to redhead, but it quickly saw widespread usage outside of references to Ron Weasley.

    If fit is mostly only being referenced with relation to this show, it's not really a good import; rather just a temporary blip while this British show is having some popularity in the US.

    1. So, do you have a better candidate for UK→US Word of the Year, Dan? If so, please let us know... and it's a shame you didn't tell us about it before!

    2. Dan makes a fair point, IMO. I haven't encountered this meaning of 'fit,' although admittedly I don't watch any of the tv shows mentioned. Whether it will establish a permanent presence remains to be seen.

      That said, I don't have any better suggestions :(

    3. I can only use these examples because my profession's ethical rules keep me from quoting usage by young, non-public figures. Slang is mostly used by young, non-public figures. The point of my WotY is not to predict whether something will become established, but to remark on words that seemed very '2022' in the history of US–UK linguistic relations.

      *Ginger* is a former WotY here (2010). It got some notoriety in the US via South Park, prior to Harry Potter.

    4. Ginger became known here in its hair-color sense because of Harry Potter, but I don't think it has caught on really as a word Americans use. But that's okay - Words of the Year are often ephemeral things, and to the extent it has informed a large population of something they didn't know, a reasonable choice; any way it's all in fun.

    5. That's interesting about 'ginger'. In modern Israeli Hebrew slang, "gingee" means "red-headed". I don't know when it started, but it is not new.

  3. That 'Saturday Night Live' skit is hilarious, even to someone like me who has always diligently avoided even the merest fleeting glimpse of 'Love Island'.

  4. Have been grateful for people commenting on Facebook and Twitter about where they learned the word, including Ali G and Ted Lasso. I very much appreciate those who comment here and help build up the discussion in an easily found space!

  5. Hearing the SNL cast interpretation of regional UK stereotypical accents on that Love Island clip is a joy.

  6. I think it's obv. slang, but where I am in America (philadelphia) and other places...."Fit" also means "outfit/clothes/look"....."thats a great fit"

  7. I always felt the word 'fit' as in sexy has a bit of an overlap with two other meanings/usages. Someone who goes the gym a lot is likely to be buff, hench, stacked or fit. All those meanings imply both attractiveness and health. There's also the Darwinian sense of survival of the fittest. Animals including humans select a mate based on their (or their genes') fitness, tautologically their likelihood to survive. It's the latter sense which I like to think consciously or not we Brits use when referring to prospective mates. Though I think the word has developed its own life independent of both connotations.

  8. Haven't heard/seen it used, myself. Curious: Can "fit" in this usage also refer to a nice-looking outfit? (Like how we Americans might call an outfit "sexy"?)

    1. That's a young American usage. In BrE it's people.


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AmE = American English
BrE = British English
OED = Oxford English Dictionary (online)