Tween and Teen Slang Dictionary for Parents

Tween and Teen Slang Dictionary for Parents

Teens in each generation develop a unique language of their own. After all, language is something people use in order to communicate, but also to show that we belong.

Over the years, parents have heard terms ranging from “outta sight” and “phat,” to things like “sick” and “gag me with a spoon.” Every decade has been marked by its special phrases, but there’s more to these words than just their direct meaning. Language has history, and the current “slang” phrases of Gen Z and Gen Alpha are no different.

Why Kids Use Slang

Trying to figure out what teens are saying is increasingly challenging, as the explosion of social media, memes, digital communication, and the ever-present cell phone means teen-speak is evolving faster than ever. Once you think you’ve mastered a few phrases, you’re probably already out of touch again.

Of course, slang isn’t unique to teenagers—humans of all ages gravitate toward language that allows them to feel part of a group. But as teens are developing their identities and trying to figure out who they are, the tendency to lean into “slang” words might feel stronger.

Be Smart

It’s important to educate yourself about common teen slang so that you understand what your teen is talking about—both online and IRL.

It’s important to keep in mind that many of the phrases you hear from your teens have origins in Black culture, as well as Black queer culture. Lots of popular terms that have become mainstream, including “slay,” “extra,” “period,” “cap,” and more, are derived from African American Vernacular English (AAVE). To categorize these words as solely Gen Z or Gen Alpha slang would be to misrepresent their history, and would also over-simplify the way in which language evolves and grows. These words aren’t created by today’s teens, but they have become embedded in youth culture all the same.

With that in mind, here are some things you might be hearing your teen saying around the house—and what they mean.

General Terms

Below are some common words you might hear: 

  • AF – Stands for “as f**k,” used to emphasize a statement (i.e. “she’s cool AF”)
  • Ate – To succeed at something. “She ate…” as in “ate that up”
  • Cap – Something that is not true or a lie
  • Cheugy – Something that is out of date or a person who is trying too hard
  • Cringe – Word to describe embarrassing or awkward behavior
  • Dead – Something is so funny that the speaker has “died” of laughter
  • Dope – Cool or awesome
  • Extra – Over-the-top, extreme
  • Fit – Short for outfit
  • Fire – Hot, trendy, amazing, or on point (formerly “straight fire”)
  • GOAT – “Greatest of All Time”
  • Go Off – A phrase said to encourage someone to continue, usually when they’re ranting about something (can also be sarcastic, as in, “but go off, I guess”)
  • Gucci – Good, cool, or going well
  • Hits Different – Something that “hits different” lands differently than usual
  • IRL – In real life, as opposed to online
  • IYKYK – Stands for “if you know, you know”
  • Lit – Amazing, cool, or exciting
  • Low-Key – Added to a feeling or desire to downplay it (i.e. “I’m low-key freaking out”)
  • Mood – A word to signify agreement or a specific vibe
  • OMG – An abbreviation for “Oh my gosh” or “Oh my God”
  • ONG – Basically the equivalent of “I swear to God”
  • Preppy – High end and stylish, connoting wealth. Can also go negative, as in conformist, with “Preppy Nation”
  • Rizz Short for charisma. Someone who’s charming, or has “game”
  • Salty – Bitter, angry, agitated
  • Sic/Sick – Cool or sweet
  • Sigma – A male who is popular, but is also a loner who separates himself from the crowd
  • Slay – To be extremely stylish or successful
  • Sleep On – To be ignorant to something or someone’s value (i.e. “Don’t sleep on the new Ariana single”)
  • Snatched – Looks good, perfect, or fashionable; the new “on fleek”
  • TBH – To be honest
  • Tea – Gossip, situation, story, or news
  • Thirsty – Trying to get attention
  • Vanilla – Boring/Beige
  • Yassify – A dramatic makeover, or to apply several beauty filters to a picture until the person is totally unrecognizable
  • Yeet – To throw something in anger
  • YOLO – “You Only Live Once” (often used ironically)

People or Relationships

Relationships are an important aspect of adolescence. In the teen years, kids develop their own identities and explore who they are outside of their families. Interactions with their peers are a key component of this process—and they often create unique words to describe their friendships and romantic relationships.

Here are some slang words your teen might use when talking about other people:

  • Bae – “Before anyone else,” babe, or baby; is used to describe a romantic partner or good friend
  • Basic – Boring, average, or unoriginal
  • BF/GF – Boyfriend/girlfriend
  • BFF – “Best friends forever”
  • Big Yikes – Extra cringe
  • Bruh – Bro or dude (all three terms are gender-neutral)
  • Cap – Fake or a lie
  • CEO – To be the “CEO of” something is to excel at it
  • Curve – To reject someone romantically (related to “ghosting”)
  • Emo – Someone who is emotional or a drama queen
  • Fam – Group of friends
  • Flex – To show off
  • Ghosted – To end a relationship by cutting off communication
  • It’s giving – a comparison “It’s giving 80s vibes…”
  • A Karen – A disparaging way to describe a petty middle-aged woman, who is rude and entitled. (For example, saying, “What a Karen,” about someone who returns their drink at a restaurant for not having enough ice)
  • No cap – Totally true or no lie
  • Noob/n00b – A person who doesn’t know what they’re doing or who is bad at something; in other words, a newbie
  • OK, Boomer – Usually said in response to a person or idea that seems outdated
  • Periodt – End of statement emphasizer. For example: “That’s the best ice cream, periodt.”
  • Pop Off – To react angrily
  • Ratio’d – From social media, more negative feedback than positive
  • Serving – Looking good
  • Ship – You might “ship” two people together, as in you think they should be a couple; derived from the word relationship
  • Shook – To be incredibly shocked or shaken up
  • Simp – Someone who does way too much for the person they like; to have a huge crush on someone
  • Spill the Tea – Asking someone to spill gossip
  • Squad  Group of friends that hang out together regularly, used ironically
  • Stan – An overzealous fan of a particular group or celebrity
  • Sus – Suspicious, shady, not to be trusted
  • Throw shade – To disrespect or trash-talk someone
  • Tight – In a close relationship or friendship
  • Tool – Someone who is stupid, obnoxious, rude, and/or embarrasses themselves, often a jock type

Compound Slang

New words are sometimes created by combining two other words together. To understand what they mean, you need to know the definition of each word.

Here are some examples of compound teen slang:

  • Crashy – Crazy and trashy, like a trainwreck
  • Crunk – Getting high and drunk at the same time, or crazy and drunk
  • Hangry – Hungry and angry
  • Requestion – Request and a question, or to question again
  • Tope – Tight and dope

Parties, Drugs, and Sex

Teens are prone to experiment and push boundaries—and also to talk a big game. So, sometimes slang words will simply be used in fun or boasting. However, sometimes they may indicate risky (or potentially risky) behavior.

For the most part, teen get-togethers are a fun rite of passage and aren’t automatically anything to be concerned about. However, parties (and related teen slang) can raise concerns over supervision, appropriate behavior, the use of illegal substances, alcohol, peer pressure, bullying, and unprotected sex.

Whether or not your child is involved in any inappropriate or dangerous activities, you’ll want to know what they’re talking about and be attuned to any words that might indicate possible trouble.

Below is a list of some social slang to be aware of:

  • 53X – Sex
  • Body count – The number of people someone has slept with
  • CU46 – See you for sex
  • Dayger – Party during the day
  • Function/Func – Party
  • Gyat – Big butt, as “Girl, your *ss thick” or the reaction, “goddamn”
  • Kick back – Small party
  • Molly – Ecstasy (MDMA), a dangerous party drug
  • Netflix and chill – Used as a front for inviting someone over to make out (or maybe more)
  • Plug – Someone who can hook you up with drugs
  • Rager – Big party
  • Smash – To have casual sex
  • Sloshed – To be drunk
  • Throw down – To throw a party
  • Turnt – To be high or drunk (formerly “turnt up”)
  • X – Ecstasy
  • WTTP – Want to trade photos?
  • LMIRL – Let’s meet in real life

Key Takeaways

Aim to balance safety with privacy and independence for your teen. Talk with your teen about the concerns you have, your family rules and expectations, as well as safe and healthy social media usage.

Teenagers need to be able to have private conversations with their friends. And clearly, you can’t monitor what your teen is doing or talking about all the time. Still, you may want to monitor your teen’s social media feeds at times, and pay attention when they’re chatting with their pals. If you see or hear conversations that worry you—or that you can’t decode—be ready to take action as needed.

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