- Thanks to the internet and social media, slang words spread through our culture faster than ever.
- Some slang words fill gaps in our language and help us express ourselves in innovative ways, while others don't seem to serve much of a purpose at all.
- Here are 11 of our favorite slang terms from the past decade, including "lowkey," "thirsty," and "flex."
- Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.
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When they make movies about the 2010s, which words will make notable appearances?
Which will be made fun of, which will sound retro and cool, and which will be completely unnoticeable, because they've become so ingrained in our culture?
In a decade that saw a massive expansion in social media, slang is spreading faster than ever. As a result we have many complex, historied terms that might set us apart — or make us look old in front of our kids later on.
Of course, we have no way of knowing which ones are which now, but as 2020 draws nearer, we can certainly look back at the past decade of slang terms and take a guess at which ones will be remembered most fondly, or get the most continued use.
Here are our favorite slang words from the 2010s.
Merriam-Webster defines extra as "more than is due, usual, or necessary, which is still the case for the slang term. However, the slang word extra has taken on a more specific, negative connotation, as used to describe a person. One Urban Dictionary entry defines extra as "doing the absolute most for no reason."
For example, if a girl tries to get her school's newspaper to cover drama in her personal life, she's being extra.
It's unclear exactly how long the slang usage of the word has been around, since its definition is so close to the original word. The oldest Urban Dictionary entry for the word is actually from 2003, but it didn't begin appearing on "new slang" lists until around 2015.
Extra is one of those great new words that fills a void in our lexicon. Before its arrival on the scene, the closest thing we had to it was over-dramatic, which was close, but tends to have more to do with emotional outbursts. Extra is a great word to specifically describe when someone's actions are altogether too much.
Oxford's Advanced Learner's Dictionary defines adulting as "the practice of behaving in the manner of a responsible adult, especially in completing everyday tasks." Basically, it's doing anything a traditional "grown-up" is supposed to do, like laundry, errands, and paying bills.
The word saw its first spike in internet usage in 2013, but truly widespread use began in 2015.
Adulting is a word of millennial invention, and perhaps the best word to encapsulate the generation: According to Time, it is a signal of their delayed development.
A myriad of factors, including college debt and an unstable job market early in their careers, lead millennials to hit major milestones much more slowly than preceding generations. This has created a widespread feeling that they aren't "true adults" in their adult lives, and therefore any time they do something that they believe a true adult would do, they are "adulting."
In a way, it may be a better term than the original label. It implies that adult isn't something you are, it's just an action you perform when you need to get things done. When you aren't adulting, you can still do all the things you've always enjoyed, even if they're things that are traditionally "for kids."
We all know the term "flex" in the context of flexing a muscle, but this metaphorical slang term applies that same spirit to anything you might want to flaunt — most often status. To flex is to show off, and as a noun,a flex is a specific instance of showing off.
Ice Cube was an early user of flex in this context in his 1992 song "It Was a Good Day," but the term began seeing serious spikes in internet usage around 2013.
What's interesting about the word flex is that, unlike the words "brag" and "show off," it does not have a strictly negative connotation. One could say "I had to flex on 'em," as a way of saying "I had to show them what I'm capable of." It's not strictly positive, either, but the fact that it can be seen as impressive is an interesting shift.
Of course, there's also the devastating spin-off dismissal "Weird flex but ok," a phrase used when somebody is showing off about something that really isn't worth bragging about.
Lit is a word with a long and interesting history. According to Merriam-Webster, "Lit has been used as slang for over a century, but it used to be slang for 'drunk.' Now, 'lit' has taken on a new slang meaning describing something that is 'exciting or excellent.'"
The word began seeing popular usage on the internet around the beginning of the decade. Although it has a broad definition, lit is still heard most frequently in the context of parties, outings, or social gatherings, and its original slang definition is still in use.
A party itself can be lit, but so can a particular activity or event that happened at the party. When the party is lit, it means it's raging; when someone comments that an activity or event is lit, that means it's awesome. If a person says, "let's get lit," it probably means they want to get intoxicated.
Lit's broad definition is exactly why it makes the list: It streamlines communication and connotes the overall feeling of an amazing party. It has also pretty successfully replaced the earlier slang terms "turnt" and "turn up."
Lowkey and highkey
Lowkey and highkey are what you might call sister slang terms — they have the same origin and similar definitions, but mean distinctly different things.
It is unclear exactly when usage of these words began, but lowkey came before highkey: Lowkey first had relevant Urban Dictionary entries beginning in 2016. Highkey, meanwhile, seems to be much newer — it only has one definition matching the current usage, and it is from January 2019.
According to an Urban Dictionary entry, "The slang variant of low-key, often written without the hyphen as lowkey, functions as an adverb. Lowkey is typically used to describe a speaker's desires or emotions. Lowkey retains the dictionary definition's meaning of 'of low intensity' and 'not very emotional.' However, additionally, it can also indicate something that is secretly (perhaps somewhat shamefully) wanted or felt by the speaker."
Highkey, meanwhile, is described on Urban Dictionary as "the opposite of lowkey" and "more straight up." It eliminates any feelings of secrecy or shame implied by the word lowkey.
So, for example, you might lowkey have a crush on your best friend, but you'd be highkey excited if she asked you out.
Lowkey and highkey are, like lit, flex, and extra, a more fun, nuanced way for us to express ourselves. In a world where more and more communication is typed, and never seen or heard, these micro-connotations have become extremely useful in indicating tone and intent. While "kinda" and "really" are just fine in most situations, it's the specific connotations of secrecy and excitement that make these words winners.
If someone is "shook," they're shocked, scared, or generally unable to cope with something.
The word made a comeback in the second half of the 2010s after initially being popularized in 1990s hip-hop, especially in Mobb Deep's 1995 song "Shook Ones (Part II)."
In today's usage, you might be shook from the twist ending to a movie or if your favorite artist dropped a new album without any prior warning.
Shook is a great term because it condenses the feeling of being shaken up or shaken in your boots down to a single word. "Surprised" and even "shocked" just don't have as much umph.
Fam is a simple, catch-all term of endearment that could refer to a person or a group of people. Originally a shortened version of the word family, there has been some dispute as to whether its origins can be traced to black communities in the US or social circles within the United Kingdom.
Either way, the word hit a steep uphill slope in usage around 2015, and is now, according to Merriam-Webster, used for "a close friend — especially as a form of address."
Fam has, in a way, now become a new way to say "dude" or "guys," and people have been embracing it. As people more people begin to identify outside the traditional gender binary, many are finding it important to try to reduce their use of unnecessarily gendered terms.
The word bromance is so cemented in our language that it even has an entry in the Oxford English Dictionary, where it is described as an "intimate and affectionate friendship between men."
Although the term may have been coined as early as the 1990s, according to "Lexiculture: Papers on English Words and Culture" by Alistair King of Wayne State University, the term bromance really took off thanks to a slew of buddy-cop style movies like "I Love You Man" that came out around 2009.
Online usage of the word spiked in 2010, and has been more or less steady ever since.
In discussing the importance of the word bromance, King put it best: "Previously, men who were perceived as being too close were sometimes ridiculed by bigots and accused of being homosexual. Men were encouraged to keep their emotions repressed and confessing even a platonic love to another man was taboo. The macho attitude was prevalent, and while men could be friends, it was considered unusual if two men were as close as two women were."
As silly as it sounds, the word bromance played a huge role in the important movement of normalizing platonic male affection.
Urban Dictionary defines thirsty as "too eager to get something; desperate." This desperation could be in reference to anything — compliments, validation, attention — but it is most frequently used to specifically mean desperate for sex.
For example, if a guy were on Tinder swiping right on every girl he saw, and messaging all his matches in a manner that could be considered overeager, those girls or his friends might call him thirsty.
Urban Dictionary shows a spike in searches for the word thirsty at the very beginning of 2013, so that is likely when it began to gain popularity. However, the site's earliest and most popular definition is from 2003.
Thirsty was, in a way, a true pioneer of a word. One of the only words in our lexicon that previously came close to thirsty was horny, and that word is considered taboo, and still doesn't convey the non-sexual, specifically targeted feeling that thirsty does. Meanwhile, "desperate" doesn't channel the physical qualities that "thirsty" taps into.
Like many popular slang words, the term shade originated in the black and gay communities in the 1980s. As Linette Lopez explained for Business Insider, the word first came to the general public's attention when it was explained in "Paris is Burning," a 1990 documentary about black and Latino drag queens in New York.
"If I were to say in a terribly condescending voice, 'Oh honey, I'm so glad you saved up to buy those glasses,' that's blatant shade." Lopez wrote. "I didn't insult the glasses, or you, directly. It's implied by my voice and the context of what I said. You know they're ugly."
In short, throwing shade is a way of underhandedly insulting someone. Its explosion in online usage since 2011 is no doubt a reflection of a society of quick, elegant, 140-character twitter barbs eagerly ready to accept it and adopt it as a kind of art — after all, who doesn't love to read a truly creative insult?
The word mood is, of course, incredibly old and common, but it has recently taken on new meaning. According to Know Your Meme, "Twitter users began using the phrase to mean 'relatable' around late 2015 and early 2016."
The height of internet meme culture is the ability of a whole group of random people on social media to look at a seemingly meaningless picture and somehow identify the exact feeling it conveys. When this happens, if the caption is not already there, somebody will inevitably comment, "mood," or if they're really feeling it, "big mood."
The Daily Dot published an article in 2018 about how "mood" replaced "TFW" (short for "that feeling when) in the internet lexicon. Like the rest of internet humor in the 2010s, captioned photos that represent our feelings have gotten more absurdist and abstract.
What are the top 10 slang words? ›
- Boujee. Adjective - Rich, luxurious, special, fancy. ...
- Bussin' Adjective - Amazing, really good. ...
- Drip. Adjective - Stylish, sophisticated clothes or appearance. ...
- Extra. Adjective - Dramatic, attention-grabbing, too much. ...
- Rent-free. ...
- Salty. ...
- Shook. ...
- Vibe check.
- Cringe words we all used in the '00s. 1 / 32. 'Lit', 'bae', 'totes' - these words probably baffle you when you hear kids using them today. ...
- Sick. 2 / 32. ...
- Bare. 3 / 32. ...
- Buff. 4 / 32. ...
- Neek. 5 / 32. ...
- Parr. 6 / 32. ...
- Take a chill pill. 7 / 32. ...
- 'Whatever McDonald's worker' 8 / 32.
Baller. If you were cool in the 2000s (we know you were), chances are you were considered baller (even if you were the only one that called yourself that). This expression was used to describe someone who was well-liked and well-known.What were slang words in the 1980s? ›
- Gag me with a spoon! Meaning: That's disgusting! ...
- Gnarly. Meaning: amazing, awesome; or, disgusting. ...
- Eat my shorts! Meaning: a crude remark to tell someone to go away, stop bothering you, etc. ...
- Homeboy, homegirl, homebuddy, etc. ...
- Veg out. ...
- Wannabe. ...
- Where's the beef?
- Fam. Similar to 'bro', fam is derived from the word family and is a term used to describe your closest of friends (and sometimes your literal family in an extra complimentary way).
- Stan. ...
- Boujee or bougie. ...
- Glow Up. ...
- W or L. ...
- Tea. ...
- Snack (or snacc) ...
10 means "Perfect." The number 10 is often used online and in face-to-face chat to say that something is perfect (i.e., on a scale of one to ten it rates as ten). In general chat, 10 out of 10 (10/10) is often awarded to very desirable people.What was the most popular slang word in 1977? ›
- 1970: Dorky.
- 1971: Deadheads.
- 1972: Guilt Trip.
- 1973: Carbo.
- 1974: Motorhead.
- 1975: Detox.
- 1976: Hardball.
- 1977: Brewski.
- 110 Percent. It was the amount you gave when you were giving your very best. ...
- 2. Bada-bing. A scene from The Sopranos. / ...
- Buzzkill. ...
- Harsh. ...
- Jiggy. ...
- Judgy. ...
- Metrosexual. ...
- All that. In the 90s, you'd say “all that” if you wanted to express that someone or something was the greatest, the coolest—just the absolute best. ...
- As if. You would use the very 90s term “as if” to strongly disagree with a statement someone made. ...
- Booyah. ...
- Cha-ching. ...
- Fly. ...
- I'm outtie. ...
- Not. ...
- The shiznit.
- The Cat's Pajamas. Meaning: the most excellent; coolest. ...
- Juice Joint. Meaning: a speakeasy; night club. ...
- On A Toot. Meaning: to go on a drinking spree. ...
- Giggle Water/Juice. Meaning: alcohol. ...
- Egg. Meaning: a man; someone who lives extravagantly. ...
- Know Your Onions. ...
- Glad Rags.
What are some 1960 slang words? ›
- Groovy. Meaning: cool. ...
- Far out/Outta sight. Meaning: another substitute for cool; strange or bizarre.
- Dig it. Meaning: to understand or agree with something. ...
- (It's) a gas. Meaning: fun, fine. ...
- Mellow. Meaning: Relaxed or laid-back. ...
- Bummer. Meaning: a disappointing situation. ...
- Slug bug.
("Schwing," by the way, is '90s slang for excitement, first coined by Mike Myers in his "Wayne's World" Saturday Night Live sketch and movie spin-offs.).What was popular slang in the 1950s? ›
Corny 1950s Slang Terms
A few examples originating in the 1950s could include “cruisin' for a bruisin',” “knuckle sandwich,” “Daddy-O,” “burn rubber,” “party pooper,” “ankle biter,” “get bent,” “cool cat,” and “got it made in the shade.”
- 1964, "aw shucks"
- 1965, "grody," which meant gross.
- 1966, "kegger"
- 1972, "guilt trip"
- 1973, "carbo," which is short for carbohydrate.
- 1974, "motorhead"
- Big time.
- For sure.
- I kid you not.
- Most definitely.
- No doy.
- Yes way.
- Awesome (Adjective)
- Cool (Adjective)
- Sure (Adjective)
- Beat (Adjective)
- Whatever (Noun)
- Wheels (Noun)
- Amped (Adjective)
- Babe (Noun)
- On Fleek.
BT. Meaning: An abbreviation for Bad Trip; usually used when one is having a hard time with something, and also as a warning to others to stay away from the person as he/she is, well, having a BT. Usage: Don't bug me man, I'm having a BT.What does W mean slang? ›
“W” (without a slash) can mean “win” or “winning” over text or online.What is Gen Alpha slang? ›
Generation Alpha, also known as the “children of millennials,” is the first generation born entirely within the 21st century. (Gen Z stretches back to the mid-1990s.) Mark McCrindle, a generational researcher and consultant in Australia, coined the term back in 2005.
What is a 20 slang? ›
When someone asks for your 20, they want to know where you are. People often use 20 when messaging via texts or online to attain your location and meet up with you. The term comes from the 10-20 code police use over the radio to determine the location of an officer, incident, etc.What is the most popular slang? ›
We may be using it even more than a year ago, a survey suggests. Nearly all Americans (94%) use slang, a higher number than the 84% figure this survey found last year. The most popular slang terms remain "ghosted" (to cut off communication) and "salty" (angry).What does 321 mean in texting? ›
The number 321 can be interpreted to mean “new beginnings.” This is a perfect time to start fresh, and your angels are there to support you every step of the way! If you keep seeing 321, it's a sign that your angels are trying to communicate with you.What is the 12 slang? ›
12 is a slang term for police or any law enforcement officials of uncertain origin. Possible sources include the police radio code "10-12" and the 1968 TV show Adam-12, which followed two Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officers and their patrol car, "1-Adam-12."What does 1437 mean? ›
People are messaging each other "1437" because of its special meaning. Here's what "1437" means on TikTok. The internet slang "1437" means "I love you forever" on TikTok. Each numeral reflects the number of letters in the corresponding word.What is a 63 slang? ›
Rule 63. (Internet slang, fandom slang, informal) The proposition that it is possible to find genderswapped versions of every fictional character, especially as fan art on the internet.
Rad & Radical
It's clearly my favorite of these 80's slang terms, and the one I say most commonly. 'Radical' and 'Rad' basically mean awesome, outrageous and cool (I don't mean the temperature). If “cool” is sounding a bit tired and old, this word would be an excellent replacement.
1999: Chillax. Although the use of adding "chill" to phrases was popular in the '80s, the slang term chillax wasn't formally recognized by Merriam-Webster until the late '90s. The term, which means "to calm down," is a blend of the words chill and relax.What was the most popular slang term in 1974? ›
1974 – Motorhead (noun): a person who is really into motorcycles.What was popular 1920 slang? ›
Crab: Figure out • Crate: Car • Croak: To kill • Croaker: Doctor • Crush: An infatuation. Crushed out: Escaped (from jail) • Cush: Money (a cushion, something to fall back on) • Cut down: Killed (esp. shot?) Policeman Page 7 1920s Slang 7 o A collar or an arrest.
What was the most popular slang term in 1972? ›
- 1972 – guilt trip.
- 1973 – carbo.
- 1974 – motorhead.
- 1975 – detox.
- 1976 – hardball.
- 1977 – brewski.
- 1978 – pig out.
- 1979 – nostalgia-fest.
“Ring-a-ding-ding” was often used to indicate having a good time at a party. “Shake a leg” was an imperative meaning “hurry up.” A “snitch” was a person who informs the authorities. The term was effectively used in the film “Scent of A Woman.” A “flivver” was a car, and a “licorice stick” was a clarinet.How did people say cool in the 1970s? ›
Hip. There are many, many ways to express the word “cool,” but “hip” was the all-time favorite term during this groovy decade. If you were cool, then you were hip. Being hip often meant cool car, cool clothes, cool vibe.What are some cool slang words? ›
- On Fleek.
Sawbuck is an old-fashioned slang term for a $10 bill. The phrase reportedly reflects the fact that the Roman numeral X, which resembles a wooden sawbuck, was traditionally used on U.S. $10 banknotes to denote the number 10.What were popular sayings in the 90s? ›
- Going Postal. Going postal means becoming extremely angry, often to the point of violence, and usually in a workplace environment.
- Let's Roll. ...
- You Know It. ...
- What's Crackalackin? ...
- Shiznit / Shizniz. ...
- Eat My Shorts. ...
- That's Massive. ...
- Head Banger.
- LOL – laughing out loud.
- OMG – oh my god (or oh my gosh)
- IMO – in my opinion.
- IMHO – in my humble opinion (or in my honest opinion)
- BTW – by the way.
- IDK – I don't know.
- LMK – let me know.
- TBH – to be honest.
Buck is an informal reference to $1 that may trace its origins to the American colonial period when deerskins (buckskins) were commonly traded for goods. The buck also refers to the U.S. dollar as a currency that can be used both domestically and internationally.What does 20 mean in slang? ›
Have you ever heard someone ask, “What's your 20?” The term refers to your location. It comes from “10–20” and is part of the Ten Code used by CB radioers, who borrowed and adapted it from the police and emergency services.What is a ten penny word? ›
Noun. ten-cent word (plural ten-cent words) (idiomatic) A short and common word used in place of a longer and more uncommon one.