A List of Generational Slang Words and Phrases – X, Y and Z|
There is a moment that all of us dread when in a conversation with someone younger, and they say a word or phrase you’ve never heard of before, and when you slowly start to realize that you have been aged out of the loop of new slang words. You begin to feel your legs buckling, the grey hairs growing, and the indescribable desire to exclaim, “get off my lawn!”.
Your only choices now are to adapt (and hope that they don’t make fun of you on Tik Tok) or embrace the beauty of being a collector of time and learn the ancient slang of your forefathers and join their ranks filled with afternoon teas and sunsets on the porch.
In an attempt to not overwhelm you with either nostalgia or confusion, we have curated a list of some of our favourite generational words since the early 1980s and compiled their meanings and how to use them. This will prove essential for anyone who stumbles around lost in generational discourse online and mumbles “SMH” in utter disappointment at the looming hieroglyphic shorthand in front of them.
Language is highly versatile, and exploring how it adapts, grants us a greater understanding of how we communicate with one another.
|This rhyming slang phrase plays on the idea of medicines relaxing someone, which was used as early as the 1980s. You can use this to tell someone they are overreacting or too stressed and to chill out (an older expression).
|This phrase came from the surfing culture in the late 1970s and meant that a wave was “challenging” or “frightening”. Slang has a habit of flipping bad things into good things, and the phrase evolved to mean “amazing”. It is commonly used to poke fun at California surfer dudes in film and pop culture.
|One of the hallmarks of Gen X culture is its musical contributions, including punk rock and grunge. Headbanger entered the language in the early 80s and is used to refer to someone who loves heavy metal music. The phrase shortened over the years to just “banger, “meaning a song is really good.
|The word is based on an acronym formed from the initial letters of “young, urban professional”. It was used to define “young, ambitious, and well-educated city dwellers who had a professional career and an affluent lifestyle.” It is mainly used in a derogatory sense as the yuppie has been commonly made fun of in pop culture.
|Diss (also “dis”) is shortened from disrespect, and when you diss someone, you insult them. It is credited to Black slang in the 1980s, which is very much still in use today, with many famous musicians creating “Diss Tracks” to poke fun at other people in the industry.
|If someone says you’re trippin’, that means you’re acting like a fool, being too excited, or being too bothered about something. The earliest usage of the word was found in the 80s and is related to a psychedelic drug trip, which in itself is a phrase from the early 50s.
|The slang verb rock, generally meaning “to be excellent,” is recorded in the 1980s. But it has a long history and is connected to rock-n-roll music. The name for this incredibly influential genre alludes to the rocking back and forth involved in dancing to the music. So, it is generally regarded as a compliment if someone tells you that you rock.
|Dude initially spread as slang for “a man” in the US in the 1900s, but in the late 1980s, the word started to be used to address (like, hey, dude!) and as an exclamation (Dude, that’s amazing!). With its adoption into Gen Z culture, it has become gender-neutral, so you can call a woman a dude if you so desire.
|This colourful way of expressing anger comes from the incidents in the 80s and 90s where American postal workers ran amok and brought out loaded guns, and shot randomly at fellow employees. So, since that day, whenever someone is about to get mad about something, you can pre-emptively brace yourself for them about to go postal.
|You can’t be seen when you come to a slight dip in the road, and when you leave someplace, you can’t be seen at that point. You can bounce, dip or leave when you’re ready to go. This word is very versatile; however, it has now been replaced, thanks to the Gen Z crowd, with “I’m going to ghost, or let’s ghost”.
|This is a colourful word that describes your home or where you generally spend most of your time. It comes from the word “cot” or a “crib” for a baby, as that is where they spend most of their time and have the best sleep. Hopefully, you sleep as soundly as a baby in your crib.
|This word is commonly used to describe something excellent or sexy. It is an abbreviation of the words “Pretty Hot and Thick” It emerged from hip-hop and is a deliberate misspelling and inverted meaning of the word “fat”.
|A word to describe something imaginary or false. Its origins stem from the early 19th century, from the machine used to make counterfeit coins called a “bogus”. Eventually, it became used instead of “funny money” and was subsequently surpassed by the word “phoney”.
|To “psych someone out” meant to mess with them or their head. Its first documented usage originated from a 1975 Dictionary of American Slang and was described as “To unnerve someone; cause someone to lose composure, will, skill, etc.”
|Homeslice is another term for a close friend, sometimes referred to as a BFF (Best Friends Forever). The word is commonly used when referring to or greeting a friend. It comes from the phrase “a little slice of home”, a term used to describe something familiar and dear to your heart and reminds you of home.
Generation Y (Millennials)
|This incorrect tense of “awake” is used in the phrase “stay woke” to describe whether someone is paying attention to political and social events or aware of certain truths. For example, a man conscious of the glass ceiling and gender pay gap for women is “woke.”
|This word means that a millennial engages in an activity or behaviour involving responsibility or decision-making, usually taken care of by fully developed adults. Paying your bills, getting your car maintained, going to the dentist, and other such accomplishments fall under the wide parameter of “adulting.”
|Predominantly used in the past tense, “cancelled” describes someone or something you’ve rejected, deleted or cut out of your life. For example, your friend could ask you if you are still dating someone, to which you could reply, “No, they’re cancelled.”
|Keep it 100
|This phrase has the number often being replaced by the “100 emoji”, which is synonymous with “keep it real.” Keep it 100 can also refer to staying true to yourself and your values, respecting others and acting with integrity.
|While used by the general public to describe the principles or ideas about beauty and style of a particular period, place or person, to millennials, “aesthetic” is used much more simply as a synonym for “vibe,” “artistic”, or “beautiful.”
|“Thirst” or “being thirsty” is a way to describe lusting after someone, usually desperately. This slang birthed another phrase, “thirst trap,” used to describe photos people post with either the obvious or subtle intention of getting others to lust after them and post comments that boost their ego.
|This word is short for “feelings,” and “feels” are generally overpowering intense emotions. Something that “gives you all the feels” overwhelms you with good and bad emotions. To get “hit right in the feels” means to be incapacitated by the emotions something makes you feel.
|Short for swollen, “swol” is both an adjective and a noun referring to getting buff and muscular at the gym. One can be swol or get swol. The term had even appeared in a posthumous 2Pac song titled “When I Get Free”. In the song, the rapper is spraying a line, “did push-ups till I swole up”, talking about his long road to bulking.
|To millennials, “literally” means the complete opposite of its standard definition. While “literally” usually means “actually” rather than figuratively, millennials purposefully misuse this word in phrases such as “literally dying” or “literally the worst” for dramatic effect. In 2013, Dictionaries around the globe decided to literally include the figurative meaning of literally in their newer editions.
|Bae is generally used as a term of endearment towards a significant other. It is said to be an acronym for “before anyone else” or a shortened version of baby or babe; however, that usage seems to have come after trying to give the word stronger, lasting power.
|Basic is exactly that, basic. For example, if you say someone is essential, they are very ordinary, unoriginal, and nothing special about them. The origin probably came from the real meaning of basic, but rappers started applying it to people. It mostly means that you are only interested in mainstream, popular things.
|This word is used to boast, but pretend to be modest about it, or if you complain about something most people would desire, you’re humblebragging. It is an oxymoronic compound of the words “humble” and “brag” and is commonly credited to Harris Wittels, a writer for the TV show Parks and Recreation, who created the Twitter account @Humblebrag back in 2010.
|“Bye Felicia” is a slang way of dismissing someone. It is based on a character named Felisha in the movie Friday. Bye, Felicia often appears in memes, GIFs, and hashtags online to express disregard or indifference to someone, as if to say, “That’s it. I’m done putting up with you. I’m so over this. Goodbye.”
|The word “slay” comes in both formal and informal forms. In traditional use, “slay” means “to kill violently”; however, in slang terms, its usage means “to do something exceptionally well”. For example, you could say, “you slayed your last language exam.”
|This word is commonly used to discuss or hope for a romantic relationship between fictional characters, fan fiction, or celebrities, whether or not there is any romance between them.
|Annoyingly pronounced CHOO-ghee. It means something uncool and outdated (for example, all the slang above would seem cheugy to a Gen Z individual).
|An acronym for “fear of missing out,” especially when it comes to an event you want to go to but can’t. You usually feel this intense emotion when scrolling through Instagram and seeing all the live stories of your friends having fun without you.
|A phrase that means something has triggered you, and you’re extremely mad about it. It is used jokingly and originated as the opposite of “li’l mad”.
|Boujee / Bougie
|Boujee, sometimes bougie, is shortened version of the old French word bourgeoisie and is used to describe someone or something high-class. While boujee is typically used for someone rich and chic, bougie is more of a mockery of someone trying to give off the image of being wealthy.
|Cap / No Cap
|Cap means a lie and is often used by people to call others out for being dishonest. On the other hand, “No Cap” means the truth and can be used after you make a statement that seems wholly unreal but is honest.
|Beat Your Face
|Applying makeup, especially heavy makeup, involves using and blending many products like concealer, foundation, and powder all over your face. The term was most commonly used on social media in 2015 and gained traction as fashion bloggers began using it on Instagram.
|A shortened version of “family,” fam is used to describe people you trust the most, not necessarily always blood relatives. It originated from urban British slang in the early 2000s and gained popularity on Reddit and Twitter.
|Catch These Hands
|A phrase used to let someone know you want to fight them. It is intended as a subtle threat, and you can use it when directly addressing the person causing you distress. For example, if you think someone is capping, you might ask them, “Do you wanna catch these hands?”
|Highkey / Lowkey
|Highkey is the opposite of the more commonplace Lowkey (meaning something that is “secretive” or “restrained”), so something Highkey means it is “out in the open” and “intense”, and it is often used as an adverb for “very’ or “clearly”.
|A pejorative slang term for an obnoxious, angry, entitled, and often-racist middle-aged white woman who uses her white privilege to get her way or police other people’s behaviours. In Memes, Karens are generally stereotyped as having a blonde bob haircut and asking to speak to retain managers to voice complaints.
|I love that for you
|A mostly sarcastic expression is typically used by self-absorbed individuals to simultaneously address and dismiss something a person is saying or doing. Its oldest usage was in 2008 on the hit TV show “The Bachelorette” and subsequently gained mainstream usage on Twitter.
|Mood or Big Mood is generally said online in reference or agreement to something relatable. It can capture a feeling at a specific moment and comment on a broader sentiment about life. It originated from Twitter around 2015 and is used similarly to “goals”, “same”, and “TFW (That Feeling When)”.
|Generally found in the comment section of pictures of models on Instagram, “Snack” means someone extremely attractive that you just really want to take a bite out of them. Not to be confused with “main course”, someone who is wife/husband material.
|A term that is a portmanteau of the words “stalker” and “fan”. It likely originated from the Eminem song of the same name, about a fan named Stan who became obsessed with the rapper.
|Sus is a term meaning suspicious or something that it is giving the impression that it is questionable or dishonest. This phrase was popularized during the online game Among Us, where the aim was to lie your way through and not get caught killing all of your “teammates” on a spaceship.