Monsterbank, décombres and GPT named Switzerland's words of the year for 2023

Monsterbank, décombres and GPT named Switzerland's words of the year for 2023

After a year that saw the country focus on the prospect of energy crises, shortages and boycotts, the 2023 Word of the Year report by the University of Applied Sciences in Zurich (ZHAW) has recorded a shift in the public's focus towards other major events at home and overseas. For 2023, Monsterbank is the German-Swiss word of the year, with décombres and GPT taking the top spots in the Romande and Ticino.

ZHAW Word of the Year 2023

To name the “words of the year” in Switzerland, the university used a national database of 1,7 million texts produced in 2023 - consisting of 976.681.684 different words - in order to find 30 words that are being used more frequently or significantly differently than in previous years. This shortlist was then divided by language region, with a jury of language experts used to whittle the number down to three for each part of the country.

After two years of dominance by COVID-related terms, followed by Strommangellage (energy shortage), boycotter (to boycott) and penuria and mancanza (shortage) in 2022, ZHAW found that the words for 2023 were mainly focused on other events felt globally and within Switzerland.

Monsterbank, the Swiss-German word of the year

In 2023, Monsterbank is the Swiss-German word of the year, décombres (rubble or debris) took the top spot in French-speaking Switzerland, GPT is first in Italian-speaking areas and Solarexpress is number one for those who speak Romansh.

Monsterbank refers to the bank created after the merger of Credit Suisse and UBS - which combined after a crisis at the former forced the firm into a government bailout and emergency merger deal. Reporting from Reuters back in August estimated that UBS now controls over 6,5 trillion US dollars worth of assets.

When asked why Monsterbank took the gold, ZHAW linguist Marlies Whitehouse told 20 Mintuen that “it quickly became clear that the upheavals in the banking sector affect all Swiss people in one way or another.” The organisation said that the crisis at Credit Suisse had shaken the country’s reputation as a safe haven for finance, adding that there is now a fear that the newly enlarged bank, while saved from the financial abyss by the deal, will do more harm than good in the future.

Global events and technology dominate Swiss word of the year

On the west side of the Röstigraben, the word décombres took the top spot. Meaning rubble or debris, ZHAW explained that jurors chose this word because of the amount of debris and rubble seen on the Swiss media thanks to the war in Ukraine, Israel and Gaza. 

In Italian-speaking Switzerland, GPT - a reference to the artificial intelligence language model Chat GPT - is number one. With the influence of artificial intelligence on the world of work and leisure now so pronounced, it perhaps made sense to recognise its prominence in the list.

For those from the Romansh-speaking regions, the word “Solarexpress” took the top prize - a reference to the political push to use solar power in the mountains.

Switzerland's words of the year for 2023 revealed

Along with the winners, ZHAW also chose second and third-place words in each language region. These are:

  • Chatbot - a reference to the increased use of chatbots in everyday life and tasks.
  • Ghosting - a word for ignoring or hiding. Usually used in dating but has started to refer to when employers fail to contact you after applying for a job.
  • Intelligence artificielle (artificial intelligence)
  • Coûts de la santé (healthcare costs) - a reference to the expected rise in the cost of health insurance.
  • Tunnel - a reference to the Gotthard Tunnel derailment or the tunnels used by Hamas in Gaza.
  • Econansia (climate concerns)
  • Igl Rutsch (rockslide) - a reference to the landslide in Brienz / Brinzauls.
  • Regulaziun proactiva (proactive regulation) - a reference to local councils and authorities' inability to control and cull wolf packs.

For more information about the study, check out the ZHAW website.

Thumb image credit: Micheal Derrer Fuchs /

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Editor for Switzerland at IamExpat Media. Jan studied History at the University of York and Broadcast Journalism at the University of Sheffield. Though born in York, Jan has lived most...

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