What Did She Say? Defining Teen Slang

By Colleen McTiernan

These days, it seems like teens have a language all their own. With shortened words, acronyms, conjoined words and words that almost seem to appear out of thin air, it can be hard for parents to keep up with the hip lingo. So, to help you out the next time you just can’t figure out what the heck your teenager is saying, here is a brief guide to some of the more common slang teens use today.

 Conjoined Words

Teens love to play Dr. Frankenstein with words these days. They’ll mash up any number of words, and sometimes the results seem truly monstrous, especially if you’re a language lover.

  • Frenemy – Someone who is both a friend and enemy
  • Tope – Totally and dope
  • Graycation – Going on vacation with grandparents

Shortened Words

Texting often leads teens to shorten words, and it’s when those shortened words make the jump from online to everyday language that parents can get confused. Sometimes the abbreviations are intuitive, but other times they just sound like gibberish.

  • Awk – Awkward
  • Totes – Totally
  • Cray – Crazy
  • Adorbs – Adorable
  • Whatevs – Whatever
  • The feels – Feelings
  • Ship – Relationship. Teens will often use this as a verb and say “I ship it” when they like a couple together.
  • Fam – Family

Abbreviations

Like the above shortened words, abbreviations often arise from texting. But unlike shortened words, it is far less easy to figure out what exactly those abbreviations your teen is using stand for. As someone who has seen FTW (for the win) confused for someone cursing the world at large, I know just how annoying abbreviations can be to decode.

  • Bae – Before Anyone Else. Also thought to be derivative of babe or baby.
  • GOAT – Greatest Of All Time
  • IKR – I Know, Right?
  • AF – As, well … I’m sure you can figure out what the F is for
  • OTP – One True Pairing
  • OG – Original Gangster

Words With Double Meaning

You may hear your teens using words that you’re familiar with, but in a very different context. Don’t worry, your teen hasn’t been slacking on her vocab lessons. There is some slang that gives new meaning to common words. On the other hand, you may hear your teens using words that Merriam Webster has never heard of. Again, don’t worry. Slang is to blame for that, too.

  • Lit – Can be used to describe something awesome, or someone who is very intoxicated
  • Gucci – Good
  • Basic – Describes someone who likes mainstream things
  • Cyph – Smoking pot
  • Snatched – When something looks really good
  • Fleek – On point
  • Netflix and chill – Not nearly as innocent as it sounds, this is code for hooking up