What Are the Slang Words Gen Z Is Using in 2020?
If you’ve recently had an encounter with your Generation Z kids or grandkids and had absolutely no idea what was being said, then you’re not alone. Like kids of every generation, young people these days have many slang terms that adults are unlikely to understand.
Here you’ll find a handy guide to Gen Z slang that will help translate exactly what your favorite kids are attempting to communicate. You might even find some of them slipping into your own vocabulary.
Who is this “fam” your teen is always so delighted to greet when they answer the phone? Well, rest assured that fam is highly unlikely to be the identity of your kid’s awkwardly named best friend. It’s actually a term of endearment that’s short for “family.”
Don’t let this confuse you, however, because it doesn’t necessarily mean “family” in the traditional biological sense. It refers to your closest friends or members of your chosen social tribe. You may also hear the terms “bro” or “sis” being used in much the same manner.
Resist the urge to bust out the sage even if you hear your teen remark that someone has “ghosted” them. While not a good thing, the term doesn’t actually have any supernatural implications. It basically means that someone has stopped communicating with them, usually in an abrupt manner.
Ghosting is a common, albeit immature, way to attempt to end a relationship without actually having an awkward break-up conversation. The ghoster simply begins ignoring calls, texts, face to face interaction and all other communication in the hopes that the other person will get the hint and move on.
The “clapback” is a celebrated form of verbal retaliation against someone who has attempted to hurt your feelings. It’s executed by responding to a rude remark or insult with an absolutely perfect comeback that’s designed to shut down the original insulter.
This is generally achieved by using wit in order to nullify the original insult by making the person look stupid for their ill-conceived attack. You know all those brilliant responses you later wish you’d said when in an argument? A clapback is achieved when you actually do.
Bop is a title awarded to a song that the speaker highly enjoys. For instance, should your favorite Gen Z member’s song come on the radio, you might hear them exclaim, “This song is such a bop!” Should a song achieve bop status in a car full of teens, the polite thing to do is to turn up the volume.
Actually “bopping,” aka bopping to the rhythm is then likely to ensue. Should you consider yourself a less-than-experienced bopper, you should feel free to join in with a slight nodding along to the rhythm.
Should a young person exclaim “Wig!” in your presence, there’s not necessarily any need to send your hand flying up to steady your toupee. “Wig” is actually a verbal celebration of something amazing or incredible happening. It’s meant to imply that you’re so excited that your metaphorical wig has flown off.
Should you like to incorporate it into your own language, you might use it as a response when your favorite teen announces getting an A on a test or winning a ball game. They’ll probably be so surprised to hear you say it that they might just wig too.
Cap and No Cap
To cap or not to cap, that is the question. Used in the context of Gen Z, however, “capping” has nothing to do with headwear. A “cap” is a lie, so to accuse a statement of being a cap is to declare that it’s false.
“No cap,” on the other hand, is often used at either the beginning or end of a statement that the speaker wishes to emphasize is true. It pretty much means “no lie.” For instance, you might hear your Gen Z grandkids say, “Grandma, these cookies are the best, no cap.”
Don’t panic if you hear your kids or grandkids making plans to “twatch” because it’s not nearly as dirty as it sounds. A combination of the words “Twitter” and “Watch,” twatching means following a live event on Twitter instead of watching the entire thing unfold on TV.
In case you’re unfamiliar, Twitter is a social media platform that’s sort of like a constantly updated virtual newspaper. Except the articles are all a few sentences long or less … and mostly written by people who are in no way actual reporters.
If someone is “flexing,” they’re showing off their money or luxury items in a less than humble way. The point of a good flex is to brag about your riches in such a way that implies that they make you better than your fellows.
Flexing is acceptable when performed by rappers or other celebrities whose wealth is an important part of their image. Too much flexing by a regular person, however, can get very annoying very quickly. You may hear kids comment that someone who posts a braggy twitter photo is “tryna (trying to) flex.”
“Lit” is one of those words that can get a little tricky due to its variety of possible meanings. It can be a state of being, an affirmative exclamation, or an adjective. If referring to a person who is currently consuming alcohol, then being “lit” means that they are insanely drunk.
In other contexts, however, lit can be used as a description of something that was or is very good, fun or exciting. You might, for instance, hear a young person enthusiastically describe a concert they attended recently as, “So lit!”
Though “periodt” is a blatant misspelling of “period,” in this case, the error is intentional. The idea is that the extra ‘t’ at the end of the word somehow emphasizes its finality even more. Periodt is often used to mean “end of discussion” in a way that stresses that there is no room for argument.
It’s also occasionally uttered as “and that’s on periodt,” to provide even more emphasis to an already emphasized statement. As you may have gleaned, once the phrase has been uttered, there’s little point in continuing the conversation.
This is one you’ll likely understand easily, as the art of throwing shade is as old as time. Shade itself is a verbal or nonverbal expression of contempt towards another person. To “throw shade” means to express such disrespect or judgment in a casual or underhanded manner.
It’s basically being disrespectful but in a slick, passive-aggressive manner. One might throw shade by giving someone a backhanded compliment, looking them up and down with an obviously judgemental stare or making a joke at the shadee’s expense.
Low Key and High Key
When you hear a member of Gen Z describe something as “low key,” it can mean several things depending on what they’re referring to. If referring to a low-key event, it means that it will be an intimate gathering with only a few people. If they are keeping a relationship low-key, it means that it’s not yet public knowledge and that they’d prefer to keep it that way.
While low-key is a well-established phrase, high-key is newer. It’s the opposite and means that something is intense, out in the open or well known in the speaker’s social world.
Despite the seemingly negative connotations of slaying something, it actually means something good when used as slang. To “slay” something indicates success, which makes sense when you consider that the victor has slain their enemies. This young man, for example, is slaying when it comes to skateboarding skills.
Apart from achievements and talents, one’s outfit can also “slay” by being incredibly attractive or pleasing to the eye. You might, for instance, hear young girls referring to an actress who “slayed” on the red carpet by wearing an outfit they really liked.
“Tea” in no way actually involves a beverage, although it does refer to the juicy gossip you may have occasionally shared while sipping the drink. Remember the old phrase “spill the beans?” Now “spilling the tea” is pretty much the same thing, as apparently beans have gone out of style.
If someone asks for the tea about a given situation, they want to know the most scandalous information about it. Alternatively, “tea” can be used as a sign of agreement. For instance, if someone says “she’s better off without him,” her friend might affirm, “tea.”
If someone is described as “basic,” then they don’t tend to be the type of person who thinks for themselves. A term most commonly applied to girls, it indicates that the person in question likes things more because everyone else likes them than because they personally find them appealing.
Basic girls tend to be incredibly girly and enjoy pink things and whatever happens to be trendy at the moment. They can commonly be found drinking pumpkin spice lattes at Starbucks, playing Candy Crush or shopping for a new pair of Ugg boots.
Have you ever felt shaken up? If so, then you too have experienced what it is to be “shook.” Being shook refers to being very emotionally impacted by something due to its surprising, shocking or scary nature. You may find yourself shook after enduring a sudden breakup or hearing about the death of a celebrity.
Though shook generally refers to a negative emotional state, it can be a good thing on occasion. Getting a large amount of money or winning acontest when you thought you had no chance could leave you pleasantly shook.
If you ever hear a young person say “Bye, Felicia” even though no one named Felicia is present, then rest assured it’s not a red flag that your mind is starting to go. This phrase originated from the hilarious 1995 movie Friday, starring rapper and actor Ice Cube.
There was a very unappealing character in the film named Felicia, and her name lives on in the form of this pop culture send-off. If someone says “Bye, Felicia,” it’s a way to tell someone to go away and that they’re unlikely to be missed.
If your daughter or granddaughter announces that she’s a VSCO, girl then get ready to hear a great deal about the importance of saving sea turtles. Named after an online photo editing app, VSCO (pronounced “Visco”) girls have become a breed all their own.
A mix of many stereotypes, the VSCO girl loves the beach, friendship bracelets, oversized t-shirts with shorts and scrunchies. They tend to be a tad overenthusiastic about saving the environment and speak an odd language that consists of strange utterances such as “and I opp” and “sksksk.” They’re a whole article in their own right.
If a young person encourages you to stop being so salty, then it’s time to take a good look at your mood and how it’s affecting others. Being salty means that you’re bitter, upset or frustrated with a situation, and odds are that you’re directly or indirectly letting everyone around you know it.
You can also use the term to label others who are currently exhibiting an unpleasant disposition. For example, you might say, “Betty was so salty that my casserole was better than her’s at the potluck last night.”
An oldie but goodie. If you’re tired of expressing your pleasure by labeling things as “good” or “delightful,” then try taking “sick” out for a spin. When used in this context, “sick” has nothing to do with illness and rather implies that a person, place or thing is awesome.
If someone is a very talented dancer, you might hear a young person say that they have “sick moves.” If your grandchild alerts you that those doilies you just purchased are “sick,” then take no offense. This simply means that they like them and are offering you a compliment.
The next time you happen to overhear two young people talking, you may hear one use the reply “mood.” No, she’s not attempting to change the conversation to her feelings, but rather, she’s affirming that she feels the same about whatever it is the other person has just said.
Using “mood” in this sense implies that whatever is happening or has just been said pretty much sums up your mood or life. If you really, really relate, you can even say “big mood.”
Have you ever been so hungry that you absolutely couldn’t concentrate on anything else? You’ll probably agree that when you find yourself in such a state, nothing is more annoying than someone attempting to hold a conversation with you that distracts you from the prospect of food.
You may even find yourself getting a bit snappy with such a person and reacting to everything in a generally angst-fueled manner. That’s the definition of “hangry,” a word that combines “hungry” and “angry,” thereby describing the whole miserable state of affairs in one handy word.
Have you ever been so frustrated with something that you just can’t handle it? A member of Gen Z might respond to the situation by announcing that they “can’t even.” For instance, the young woman pictured here can’t even with her studies.
This means that they’ve overwhelmed her to the point that she can’t even get a grip on her emotional response. Further examples include the likelihood that your dogs and cats can’t even with your vacuum cleaner, or that your entire book club can’t even with the lady who obviously never does the assigned readings.
When you want to give an affirmative response to something, you likely say “yes.” When you want to wholeheartedly endorse something, then “yaaaas” is generally the proper response. The more letter a’s you include in the “yas,” the higher your endorsement becomes.
You can use this affirmation to answer a question, such as, “would you like some free cruise tickets?” Yaaaaaas, you would! It’s also a proper response to hearing awesome news such as your friend telling you that they just purchased a new Cadillac. “Yaaaaaas!” would be a way to show them you highly approve.
Originally, being “woke” meant that you were aware of social injustices and were bold enough to defy “the man” and have an opinion about them. While still used in this sense, it can also be used sarcastically to describe someone who has gone a bit overboard in their quest for justice for all.
Someone might sarcastically remark that Tom must be really “woke” because he attended a training course to learn how to better avoid microaggressive statements towards people with handicapped pets. What they actually mean is that Tom needs to get a life. Woke can also be used to joke about other states of enlightenment as well.
This Ain’t It, Chief
“This ain’t it, Chief” is a term used to signify a comment or situation that you find unappealing, stupid, or wrong. Imagine, for instance, that your husband had forgotten your anniversary but assured you that he was going to take you out to a nice dinner to make up for it.
Upon arriving at the restaurant, however, you looked up only to find yourself under the big yellow arches of McDonald’s. Rather than go along with your husband’s thoughtless shenanigans, you’d be justified in deadpanning him with, “This ain’t it, Chief,” to show your displeasure.
“Yeet” is a term that you might hear used as anything from an exclamation of excitement to a mild-mannered war cry. The phrase originated from an online dance move and crept its way into popular culture due to its wide range of uses.
You might hear someone yeet upon receiving the news that they were getting a new puppy or perhaps when they attempted to throw a football a very long distance. Though hard to explain, it’s one of those words that you’ll just know is appropriate when it’s time to use. It often involves throwing or rushing at something, even if only figuratively, but not always.
We all went through that awkward phase as kids. You know, the one where your hair was one big ball of frizz, you were way too skinny or overweight or were covered in pimples. Eventually, time comes to the rescue of many of us and transforms people into handsome young men or women.
Such is the process of “glowing up.” A “glow up” is achieved when an awkward-looking kid suddenly reappears as a really attractive guy or girl. Their transformation is celebrated by those around them with praise over their marvelous glow up.
The word “hella” is an adverb that can be used in the same way as “very” or “super.” The young man in this photo, for instance, is hella frustrated. As you can see by the look on his mildly scary face, he has gone beyond mere frustration and hence needs an adverb to strengthen his description.
You may hear kids refer to someone as “hella awesome” or a song as “hella cool.” After taking the word for a test drive, you’ll quickly realize that it’s a handy way to emphasize pretty much any adjective.
While you may be familiar with Gucci, the luxury Italian fashion brand, you may also be confused to hear kids referring to things as “Gucci” that are clearly not. Have no fear; the brand has not lowered its standards, but rather has become a word often used to signify that something is good.
This even and especially refers to a state of mind or being. It can be used as an affirmative reply when asked things such as “how are you?” or “would this be okay?” To be Gucci is to be good or fine with something.