You might have noticed the words “highkey” and “lowkey” popping up on Twitter lately. They’re becoming as popular as the word “literally” was just a few years ago. Everything was “literally amazing,” or “literally terrible.” Or maybe you were literally so sick you couldn’t make it to work. Now, you’re lowkey getting sick.
i highkey wanna run, but lowkey don’t wanna run by myself ):
— ༼࿂༽ (@jayvencordova) August 4, 2015
when u highkey want someone but u tryna be lowkey
— ジMich△elGokuJonesツ (@GoKuSODMG) August 4, 2015
My hair is highkey disgusting
— zara (@fruits012) August 4, 2015
I first noticed it when someone in my feed tweeted something nonsensical incorporating the term. I figured it was the opposite of “lowkey,” but I’d never heard it before — except in a Drake line from his verse on the recent Nicki Minaj single “Only,” released in October 2014.
Drake wasn’t the first person to use “highkey” as an adverb in a rap song. At least one rapper, Styles P, beat him to it by using the line “lowkey or highkey” on a Young Roddy track in September 2013. And a song entitled “Highkey” hit the internet about a month after Drake’s verse dropped, courtesy of Latre.
Regardless of who started it, though, it’s clear that highkey and lowkey, like most millennial teen trends worth their salt, have roots in the hip hop community. Drake is probably the one who can be credited with pushing it into the mainstream. He used the terms while rapping about Nicki Minaj, “Lowkey or maybe highkey, I been peeped that you like me.”
The rap scholars at Genius have decided, on this track at least, that “lowkey means keeping things secret while highkey means letting everyone know.”
In that case, lowkey might not be the right word for Nicki and Drake’s status — they’re consistently one of the most shipped fantasy couples in pop culture, especially after his feud with her fiancé. There’s nothing lowkey about that trio.
But Drake’s use of millennial lingo is on point as always. And as Twitter makes clear, since he introduced these two adverbs to the masses, their definitions have been stretched.
Online, “highkey” is a modifier that means “very,” “a lot,” “intensely,” or “much.”
highkey attracted to pizza
— Pizzaminati (@pizzaminati) August 4, 2015
Meanwhile, “lowkey” means “not really,” “not a lot,” “minimally,” or, like Drake used it, “secretly.”
lowkey cant wait for homecoming even though i probably wont get asked
— b collick (@Brooke_Collick) August 4, 2015
And now, people are applying these words to every situation.
being a highkey harry girl and lowkey liam girl worked out so well for me todag
— katie//pcd//TOMORROW (@snogpayne) August 4, 2015
Lowkey wanna be healthy. Highkey want doughnuts.
— Lo-Rain Lopez (@lo_swiggity) August 4, 2015
I lowkey am really into that new Demi Lovato song and I highkey hate myself for it.
— Mikayla (@mikaylax) August 4, 2015
Sometimes it doesn’t make much sense.
lowkey, but highkey I’m a catfish
— lord flacko (@duckyy_) August 4, 2015
Other times, the terms are combined — not to cancel each other out, but to connote a feeling that is “even more highkey than highkey.”
I’m lowkey and high key terrified
— ange :) (@angiegalio) August 4, 2015
Mostly, though they’re either using highkey/lowkey to talk about their love lives…
Lowkey want a relationship ,
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