As any good descriptive linguist will tell you, slang is and always has been a valid part of language. In the Victorian era, for example, you might say, “My chuckaboo is smothering a parrot” to describe a good friend who was sipping on an absinthe neat. And if you happened to utter that sentence around someone who wasn’t well-versed in the vernacular, their only recourse would be to ask what on Earth you were talking about.
Fortunately, we now have Google to save us from letting on that we can’t keep up with what the cool kids are saying these days. So which current slang creates the most confusion among the uninitiated? Digital jigsaw puzzle platform I’m a Puzzle compiled a list of 200 common slang terms and then analyzed Google search data to find out which ones people looked up most often throughout 2021.
The top 30 is an entertaining mixture of expressions that can mostly be traced to social media. Some are specific to TikTok: FYP is an initialism for “For You Page,” the TikTok feed that delivers an endless stream of videos curated to your interests. DC stands for “dance credit,” which you might see in a TikTok description to acknowledge the person who made up the routine being performed in the video.
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Other entries, though popularized by social media, technically predate it. The first instance of GOAT, an acronym for “greatest of all time,” is from 1992: Muhammad Ali’s wife, Lonnie Ali, incorporated a company called “G.O.A.T. Inc.” to manage and license her husband’s intellectual properties. Stan, which describes any devoted fan of a celebrity, was coined by Eminem in his 2000 song “Stan,” about an obsessed Eminem fan (named Stan).
Many terms on the list, from bae to finna, come from African American Language (AAL)—also commonly known as African American English (AAE) and African American Vernacular English (AAVE)—an English dialect spoken by Black Americans. These terms’ prominence in mainstream slang can be interpreted as both a testament to America’s growing acceptance of AAL and also to its ongoing cultural appropriation of it.
Put your modern slang knowledge to the test below, and see more popular terms here.
- Simp: "A man who is overly submissive to women"
- Woke: "To be well-informed of and sensitive to cultural issues"
- Sus: "Suspicious or suspect"
- Bussin: "Really good, usually describes food"
- FYP: "Abbreviation of 'For You Page,' part of the TikTok app"
- GOAT: "Acronym for 'greatest of all time'"
- No cap: "To say you're not lying or exaggerating"
- Ratio: "When replies to a tweet vastly outnumber likes or retweets"
- FOMO: "Abbreviation for 'fear of missing out'"
- IYKYK: "Abbreviation for 'if you know, you know'"
- Stan: "To be a very devoted fan"
- Yeet: "Exclamation of excitement or approval"
- YT: "White, as in skin color"
- Bae: "Significant other"
- Bet: "A term of agreement or approval"
- TFW: "Abbreviation for 'that feeling when'"
- OOTD: Abbreviation for "outfit of the day"
- POS: "Abbreviation for 'piece of s***'"
- AF: "Abbreviation for 'as f***,' used for emphasis"
- Cheugy: "Uncool and untrendy"
- Cringe: "Something that elicits embarrassment or disgust"
- Boujee: "High-class and luxurious"
- Karen: "Obnoxious, entitled white woman"
- Drip: "Fashionable, stylish, or sexy"
- Lowkey: "Quiet, discreet, or secret"
- DC: "'Dance credit,' used to credit a person who came up with a dance"
- Finna: "Getting ready to do something"
- Savage: "Not caring about consequences"
- Finesse: "To get away with something, to be manipulative"
- Ghost: "Abruptly cut off contact with someone"