The Teen Slang Dictionary for Parents

Teens in each generation develop a unique language of their own. Think "outta sight," "phat," "rents," "gag me with a spoon," "radical," and "peace out." But even though you're a part of youth culture (and the slang that defines it) when you're young, it gets harder and harder to keep up when you become a parent.

Overview

Trying to figure out what teens are saying is particularly challenging now, as the past decade's explosion of social media, memes, digital communication, and the ever-present-cellphone means teen-speak evolves faster than ever. Essentially, if you blink, you're likely already out of touch.

Some of this slang enters the mainstream vernacular—and by that point, is no longer cool—or "sic." Most of these words simply disappear as they lose favor with kids and are replaced with new ones.

So, as cool as we adults think we are, most of us could use a primer on the latest teen slang. We cover it all below, from social media acronyms and text message shorthand to code words for drugs, friends, and parties.

It's important to educate yourself about common teen slang so that you understand what your teen is talking about—both online and in-person.

Teen slang
Verywell / Cindy Chung

General

Teen slang words may be confusing to those not in-the-know but are mostly harmless—and a part of a teen's identity. Kids use these words to exert independence, sound cool, and/or to fit in with their peers. They seek to differentiate themselves from their parents and want to feel unique, free, and "revolutionary." Using slang helps teens do that while also bonding with friends.

Below are some common teen slang words you might hear: 

  • Dope - Cool or awesome
  • GOAT - Greatest of all time
  • Gucci - Good or cool
  • Lit - Amazing or cool
  • OMG - An abbreviation for "oh my gosh" or "oh my God"
  • Salty - Bitter
  • Sic/Sick - Cool
  • Snatched - Looks good
  • Fire - Hot or trendy (formerly straight fire)
  • TBH - To be honest
  • Tea - Gossip
  • Thirsty - Trying to get attention
  • YOLO - You only live once (often used ironically)

People or Relationships

Relationships are an important aspect of adolescence. In the teen years, kids develop their own identities and explore who they are outside of their families. Interactions with their peers are a key component of this process—and they often create unique words to describe their friendships and romantic relationships.

Here are some slang words your teen might use when talking about other people:

  • Bae - "Before anyone else," babe, or baby is used to describe a boyfriend, girlfriend, or good friend
  • Basic - Boring, average, or not original
  • BF/GF - Boyfriend or girlfriend (used when texting, not in conversation)
  • BFF - Best friends forever
  • Bruh - Bro or dude (all three terms are gender-neutral)
  • Cap - Fake or a lie
  • Curve - To reject someone romantically
  • Emo - Someone who is emotional or a drama queen
  • Fam - Group of friends
  • Flex - To show off
  • A Karen - A disparaging way to describe a petty middle-aged woman, who is rude, especially to people who work in the service industry. For example, saying, "What a Karen," about someone who returns their drink at a restaurant for not having enough ice
  • No cap - Totally true or no lie
  • Noob/n00b - A person who doesn't know what they're doing or who is bad at something
  • Periodt - End of statement emphasizer. For example: “That’s the best ice cream, periodt.”
  • Ship - You might "ship" two people together, as in they should be a couple
  • Shook - To be incredibly shocked
  • Squad - Group of friends that hang out together regularly, used ironically
  • Sus - Suspicious, not to be trusted
  • Throw Shade - To give someone a dirty look
  • Tight - In a close relationship
  • Tool - Someone who is stupid, obnoxious, rude, and/or embarrasses themself, often a jock type

Compound Slang

Teens often create shortcuts by combining two words together. To understand what they mean, you need to know the definition of each word. Here are some examples of compound teen slang:

  • Crashy - Crazy and trashy 
  • Crunk - Getting high and drunk at the same time
  • Hangry - Hungry and angry
  • Requestion - Request and a question
  • Tope - Tight and dope

Parties, Drugs, and Sex

Teens are prone to experiment and push boundaries—and also to talk a big game. So, sometimes the below words will simply be used in fun or boasting. However, sometimes they indicate risky (or potentially risky) behavior.

For the most part, teen get-togethers are a fun right of passage and aren't automatically anything to be concerned about. However, parties (and related teen slang) also raise concerns over supervision, appropriate behavior, the use of illegal substances, alcohol, peer pressure, bullying, and unprotected sex.

Whether or not your child is involved in any inappropriate activities, you'll want to know what they're talking about and be attuned to any words that might indicate possible trouble. Below is a list of some social slang to be aware of:

  • 53X - Sex
  • CU46 - See you for sex
  • Dayger - Party during the day
  • Function/Func - Party
  • Kickback - Small party
  • Molly - MDMA, a dangerous party drug
  • Netflix and Chill - Used as a front for inviting someone over to make out (or maybe more)
  • Rager - Big party
  • Smash - To have casual sex
  • Sloshed - To be drunk
  • The plug - Someone that supplies alcohol/drugs
  • Throw down - To throw a party
  • Turnt - To be high or drunk (formerly turnt up)
  • X - Ecstasy
  • WTTP - Want to trade photos?
  • LMIRL - Let's meet in real life

Resources

Teen slang changes continuously. If you aren't sure what a slang term means, the website Urban Dictionary can help. It's dedicated to keeping up with today's slang and is a resource that parents can use. Be warned, however, that it features user-submitted content that may be crude.

Slang Apps

There are also phone apps that can help you translate teen slang. SlangIt - The Slang Dictionary App and the Chat Slang Dictionary App are just a few examples of mobile apps that can decode your teen's secret language.

Additionally, you can simply try asking your teen—or other teens you know—to translate slang you don't understand. Bringing up these words with your teen may be awkward but might also provide a doorway to important conversations with your child.

A Word From Verywell

Aim to balance safety with privacy and independence for your teen. Talk with your teen about the concerns you have, your family rules and expectations, and safe social media usage.

Teenagers need to be able to have private conversations with their friends. And clearly, you can't monitor what your teen is doing or talking about all the time. Still, you may want to monitor your teen's social media and pay attention when they're chatting with their pals. If you see or hear conversations that worry you—or that you can't decode—be ready to take action as needed.

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Article Sources
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