13 slang words everyone is using and what they really mean

  • A lot of slang can be unique terms, adaptations of phrases that have been said for years, or words that have recently been given new meanings.
  • Common words, like “basic” and “lit,” have taken on some new meanings in 2019.
  • Some words like “stan” can be negative or positive, words like “bae” can be genuine or only used in an ironic sense, and words like “yeet” have evolved to have multiple meanings.
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.

Every generation has their own slang terms, but they seem to be proliferating at an even faster rate in 2019 thanks to the internet.

With all the viral trends out there, it can be tough to keep up with which words have new meanings and which terms have multiple definitions.

Here are some popular terms people are saying these days and what they mean. It’s worth noting that many of these terms have deep roots in many communities and have recently been used more widely in mainstream culture.

‘Yeet’ was originally a dance, but it now has multiple definitions

Although its origins are debated, some of the first mentions of “yeet” have been found in black social-media culture and the word was actually the name of a dance move.

In recent years, the dance move was featured in the game “Fortnite,” which classifies the move as “the dip.” Many have called out the game for appropriating black culture by taking and renaming this dance move without crediting the community that created it.

“Yeet” has also come to be an exclamation of excitement or victory. For example, “I just got an A on my maths test, ya yeet!”

Finally, it’s also used as a verb for “[discarding] an item at a high velocity,” such as throwing an empty can into the trash. “Yeeting” something may be accompanied by the exclamation of the word.

In certain contexts, calling someone ‘basic’ means you’re calling them mainstream

Over the past few years, the word “basic” has gained a colloquial meaning you might not be familiar with. When calling someone “basic,” you’re accusing them of only liking mainstream, popular things.

Although liking mainstream things isn’t necessarily a bad thing, in most cases, calling someone “basic” is meant to be an insult. For example, someone might say, “You only drink pumpkin-spice lattes, you’re so basic.”

The term is oftentimes associated with popular things many people love, like pumpkin-spice lattes or black leggings.

“Ya basic” is also used as a catchphrase on the popular TV show “The Good Place.”

To ‘stan’ something is to be the ultimate fan of something

“Stan culture” focuses on obsessive love for an artist, fictional character, movie, or television show.

According to Dictionary.com, the origin of the term comes from the 2000 Eminem song, “Stan.” The song is about a man named Stan is who obsessed with the rapper Eminem. In the song, Stan goes through violent, extreme lengths to write letters to Eminem and try to become just like him.

In 2001, the rapper Nas used “stan” as a term to describe an obsessed fan and, over the course of two decades, the word has also been used to describe someone with an intense love for something.

It can be negative, like in the original Eminem music video or more positive, referencing someone who is dedicated to supporting a specific person or thing.

“Stan” can also be used as a verb or a noun – “We stan BeyoncĂ©” or “I am a BeyoncĂ© stan.”

‘Yas’ or ‘Yaaaas’ is a positive exclamation of support

A popular and encouraging alternative to “yes,” “yas” gained additional popularity after a video of a fan emphatically complimenting Lady Gaga went viral in 2013.

The phrase continued to become popular when Ilana from Comedy Central’s “Broad City” made it a major part of her vocabulary.

The word dates back to the 19th century and its use been popular for decades, with its more recent roots being attributed to the queer, people of colour community. In the 1980s, “yas” was popularly yelled to support and cheer on drag queens during their runway walks.

The word was recently added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2017.

A ‘meme’ is an inside joke that came from the internet

Originating from just about anything in pop culture, like news stories, cartoons, or home-made videos, a meme is a photo-, text-, or video-based reference that is manipulated and spread on the internet to become a humorous phenomenon that exists in the cultural zeitgeist.

There are thousands of memes that exist with hundreds of popular iterations of every meme.

Some popular memes include the original “I Can Has Cheezburger?” cats, the distracted-boyfriend stock photo, newer cartoon images like Surprised Pikachu and Confused Mr. Krabs, the meta love of dank memes which are rare or niche, and the expanding brain meme that shows the progression of thoughts and arguments to an inane conclusion.

The term “meme” was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2015.

‘Bae’ is a long-used term for someone’s significant other or someone they admire

A couple holding hands on a couchThe Gender Spectrum CollectionYour ‘bae’ could be your partner.

Often used ironically, “bae” is another way of calling someone “baby” or “babe.” Its origin is unclear but it’s believed to have been a term first used in hip-hop and rap lyrics from artists in the black community as early as the 2000s.

At one point, “bae” was thought to be an acronym for “before anyone else.”

In 2012, the term was popularly used in a meme where people posted pictures of themselves sleeping with the caption, “Bae caught me slippin’,” even if it was clear that no one had taken a candid photo, and that “bae” was just fabricated for the selfie.

The commonly used word ‘bet’ can also mean ‘for sure’

Although “bet” usually means to risk something or feel sure about something, it is now commonly used as a brief response.

“Bet” is now used as a positive, laidback synonym for “OK.” For example, if someone asks if you’re coming to dinner later, you might simply respond by nodding and saying, “Bet.”

‘Flossing’ isn’t just for teeth – it’s a type of dance

Exploding in popularity when “the backpack kid” (a 15-year-old dancer wearing a backpack) did these moves during Katy Perry’s “Saturday Night Live” performance in May 2017, this dance move is now widespread in schools.

The move involves holding two straight arms with closed fists in a flossing motion, going from front to back, while moving the hips in the opposite direction.

The dance can also be found in the popular video game “Fortnite.”

GOAT is an acronym for the title ‘Greatest of All Time’

Branding someone with the title of “GOAT” is a way to honour athletes, musicians, and other leaders at the top of their fields. Sometimes it’s just written out as “the goat,” and sometimes it’s just conveyed via the use of a goat emoji.

It can also be used as a casual compliment. For example, “You’re ordering pizza for dinner? You’re the goat.”

That being said, being the “GOAT” wasn’t always positive. Per Grammarphboia, this phrase has been used in the sports world since the early 1900s. Back then, it used to be a negative term for the person who was responsible for a team’s loss. It’s unclear when the term became positive.

Something or someone can be ‘lit’

Tequila shots alcohol drinkingiStockCalling someone ‘lit’ could also mean you’re calling them ‘intoxicated.’

In recent years, the word “lit” has gained a few new definitions but, per Dictionary.com, it has been part of the English language since the 1910s.

It can be a synonym of “intoxicated,” used to describe someone who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

“Lit” gained even more popularity around 2015 when it became a way to say that a party or event was amazing or lively.

For example, you might use the phrase to say, “He had so many drinks, he’s definitely lit” or “The party is going to have great music and snacks, it’s gonna be lit.”

A ‘finsta’ is a private Instagram account that’s usually quite personal or very silly

“Finsta” is the shortened version of the portmanteau of “fake” and “Instagram.” It is usually the secondary Instagram account that someone has.

This account is typically private and only shared with close friends.

This secondary account is usually very personal and emotional, sort of like a diary, or silly, filled with memes and humorous photos. It is meant to be hidden from one’s family members or the general public.

If someone is looking ‘snatched,’ they are looking fierce or impressive

Although the word typically means to suddenly seize something, it actually has another meaning when used in a certain context.

The term “snatched” has roots in the LGBTQ community and it’s typically used to call something fierce or great.

“Snatched” can also be used on its own, meaning that someone is captivated by something or that something looks incredible. It can be used as an adjective, “Her makeup looks snatched,” or a verb, “I’m ready to be snatched by this new movie.”

‘Sus’ is a shortened version of the words ‘suspicious’ or ‘suspect’

“Sus” is slang for “shady” or “questionable.”

For example, in June of 2018, regarding a strange-looking photo of Tesla’s production, Elon Musk tweeted “Looks so sus when we paint cars red.”

Interestingly, this phrase has actually been used for over a century.

In England, as part of the Vagrancy Act of 1824 (which was later repealed), “sus laws,” short for “suspected person laws,” authorised “the arrest and punishment of suspected persons frequenting, or loitering in, public places with criminal intent,” per Collins Dictionary.

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