According to the "blog.oxforddictionaries.com" the word of the year 2013 was selfie. It took more than a decade to this neologism to enter the Oxford Dictionary. Its origin in fact dates back at least to 2002:,

  • Research shows the word selfie in use by 2002. The earliest known usage is found in an Australian online forum post:

    • 2002 ABC Online (forum posting) 13 Sept. *“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.”

Its origin appears to be closely connected to the Australian tendency to use the suffix -ie as explained in the following piece:

  • It makes sense, to etymologists, that selfie may have originated in Australia, where –ie has long been a suffix in slangy nicknames: barbie for barbecue, mozzie for mosquito, tinnie for a can of beer, even Aussie for Australian. In fact, this nickname-like vocabulary has a technical descriptor, ‘hypocoristics’, which stems from the Greek hypokorizesthai meaning “to use child-talk”.

  • However, in a rather anti-climactic interview with Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Hopey – there we go again, hypocoristics –went on to claim that selfie was common slang at the time, used to describe a picture of yourself. It is thus very likely that there was no single moment when the word was ‘created’ and that it travelled orally around the Australian continent before Hopey left his message online.

  • Whatever the truth behind his morphological moment in the spotlight, though, one fact remains a fair bet: that the Australian tendency towards hypocorism is the real hero of the story.


The suffix -ie a variant of -y is defined as:

  • a noun-forming suffix with a variety of functions in contemporary English, added to monosyllabic bases to create words that are almost always informal. Its origin appears to be a from informal Scottish usage.



  • Is hypocorism, among English dialects, mainly an Australian usage?

  • Is there any evidence that selfie may have a different regional origin?

  • Hypocorisms are exceedingly common in all Englishes (and most other languages). AuE just happens to employ the -ie suffix for hypocoristic purposes with particular frequency. Some -ie diminutives are definitely non-Aussie; movie, for example is AmE in origin. Nov 6, 2016 at 2:08
  • I seriously doubt that you can pin this down. The term was likely independently "invented" by dozens of people across the English-speaking world.
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 8, 2016 at 13:33
  • (I seriously doubt that "hippie" originated in Australia.)
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 8, 2016 at 13:35
  • 1
    @Hot Licks - that's probably the case as suggested below, but evidence points in favor of an Australianism ... maybe you can provide some contrarian evidence.
    – user66974
    Nov 8, 2016 at 13:36
  • @Hot Licks - I never said hippie did, selfie is a much more recent term though.
    – user66974
    Nov 8, 2016 at 13:39

1 Answer 1


Is hypocorism, among English dialects, mainly an Australian usage?

The -ie hypocorism is certainly used in other dialects, but it's definitely popular amongst Aussies.

Here's an interesting and relevant podcast about a study on hypocoristics (or clippies) by researchers in Melbs and Tassie.

Is there any evidence that selfie may have a different regional origin?

It's quite possible selfie was independently coined by different people in different regions at different times.

The 2002 "selfie" was posted by Australian to a forum on ABC [Australian Broadcasting Corporation] Online. That's the earliest one we know about. The poster and photographer, Nathan Hope, posted under the hypocoristic nickname Hopey:

screenshot of ABC Online forum

That's the earliest one we have written evidence for. However, when Hope was interviewed by ABC shortly after it became Oxford Dictionaries' word of the year he said he didn't come up with it. According to lexicographer Ben Zimmer:

Hope expressed genuine puzzlement that his long-forgotten forum post, complete with misspellings, had become international news, along with the photo of his busted-up lip. And he dispelled the idea that he was somehow responsible for the word. "It was not a word I coined. It's something that was just common slang at the time, used to describe a picture of yourself. Fairly simple."

So Hopey didn't coin selfie, but why would everyone think that he did? There is a common assumption that a word can be traced back to a sole identifiable inventor who forged it in a burst of creativity. While this is sometimes the case (think of Lewis Carroll's chortle, or J.R.R. Tolkien's hobbit), historical lexicographers know that far more often, the best we can do is follow the trail of evidence as far back as it takes us without uncovering an originator.

Furthermore, in this case, it's very likely that there was no single moment when the word was created, no Ur-selfie. Instead, as cellphone photography became commonplace more than a decade ago, numerous Australians probably thought to apply the hypocoristic –ie to make selfie. And it is also a good bet that, as is often the case with slang, the word traveled orally before anyone like Hopey thought to type it out in a forum that could be retrieved online by future word-hunters.

According to the Guardian:

The next recorded usage is also from Australia with the term appearing on a personal blog in 2003.

"It seems likely that it may have originated in the Australian context," [Oxford] dictionary editor Katherine Martin said.

"The earliest evidence that we know of at the moment is Australian and it fits in with a tendency in Australian English to make cute, slangy words with that 'ie' ending."

There's barbie for barbecue, firie (or firey) for firefighter and tinnie for a can of beer.

So it's quite likely that selfie was independently coined naturally by other people in Australia. And there's evidence of selfie being used in 2004 on Flickr by someone from Rhode Island, USA. There's no apparent link between Australia and this use, came into use at Flickr. Photographer Jim Krause also used the term in 2005.

All these uses were still some time before there was a cameraphone in every pocket, and the technology to upload them wasn't quite ready for the mainstream.

It's hard to say from where today's use sprang, although according to ABC:

The man credited with posting the world's first 'selfie' while asking for advice on his injured lip, Nathan Hope, says the modern solo selfie is not in the spirit of the traditional picture with a friend.

As it happens, I was the person to discover that first-known use of selfie by Nathan Hope from 2002. I also managed to dig up the actual photo too, see it here or here.

  • 1
    Good answer, I was hoping for some thoughts about the supposed Australian preference for ending words in -ie, if there is any clear evidence about that.
    – user66974
    Nov 7, 2016 at 20:13
  • Here's an interesting podcast about a study on hypocoristics (or clippies) by researchers in Melbs and Tassie: latrobe.edu.au/news/articles/2011/podcasts/…
    – Hugo
    Nov 8, 2016 at 8:10
  • 1
    great that is what I was looking for, please add the link to the first part of the answer and I'll accept it.
    – user66974
    Nov 8, 2016 at 12:32
  • @JOSH Done (and I think you'll like the revision message).
    – Hugo
    Nov 8, 2016 at 13:11

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