top of page

New Definition For Hallucinate

Hallucinate is the Cambridge Dictionary's word of the year, as it gains an additional definition in one of many AI-related updates in 2023.

Swirly paints to illustrate an hallucination

The traditional definition is to "to seem to see, hear, feel, or smell something that does not exist". It now includes "when an artificial intelligence (AI) hallucinates, it produces false information".

BBC News reports that Dr Shevlin, from the University of Cambridge, said: "Inaccurate or misleading information has long been with us, of course, whether in the form of rumours, propaganda, or fake news. Whereas these are normally thought of as human products, hallucinate is an evocative verb implying an agent experiencing a disconnect from reality. "This linguistic choice reflects a subtle yet profound shift in perception: the AI, not the user, is the one hallucinating."

The definition was added after a surge in interest in generative AI tools like ChatGPT, which is capable of generating plausible prose, but often does so using false, misleading or made up 'facts', said the Daily Telegraph.

Wendalyn Nichols, Cambridge Dictionary's publishing manager, said: "The fact that AIs can hallucinate reminds us that humans still need to bring their critical thinking skills to the use of these tools. AIs are fantastic at churning through huge amounts of data to extract specific information and consolidate it - but the more original you ask them to be, the likelier they are to go astray."

The dictionary is published by Cambridge University Press & Assessment, part of the University of Cambridge.


bottom of page