25 Bits of Groovy ’60s Slang

Let your freak flag fly, man.
The 1960s gave us a lot of marvy slang still in use today.
The 1960s gave us a lot of marvy slang still in use today. / SeanShot/E+ via Getty Images

When it comes to defining an era, cultural scholars often look to the fashion, music, and trends. But if you listen closely, you’ll find that what’s emblematic of a decade is found in how people spoke to one another. While slang of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s is all unique, the peace and love aesthetic of the 1960s helped redefine modern language. Here’s what people had on the tip of their tongues during that decade. (Besides LSD, we mean.)

1. Bag

Shia LaBeouf
A whole different kind of bag. / Target Presse Agentur Gmbh/GettyImages

Not really feeling the vibe? Maybe it’s just not your bag, a form of the noun that came into common usage circa 1960, usually relating to someone’s scene, taste, or overall disposition. (It could also mean the kind of drugs someone preferred.)

2. Far Out

Bassist Charles Mingus (1922 - 1979), drummer Roy Haynes, pianist Thelonious Monk (1917 - 1982) and saxophonist Charlie Parke
Outta sight. / Bob Parent / Hulton Archive Collection / Getty Images

Maybe you just saw something really cool or just plain bizarre. Either way, this adjective—which comes from jazz by way of African American Vernacular English (AAVE)—would sum it up pretty succinctly, especially as it became more heavily popularized throughout the 1950s and ’60s among hippies and beatniks alike.

3. Nudge/Noodge

Annoyed woman
A noodge can cause a lot of hassle. / ONOKY - Eric Audras, Brand X Pictures Collection, Getty Images

Evolving from the Yiddish verb nudyen, meaning “to bore or pester,” this low-key burn (sometimes spelled nudge) would have been a warning for you to quit complaining or bugging someone. If you did it fairly often, you could even get labeled a nudnik—a Yiddish term for an annoying person, which gained traction in the early 20th century.

4. Bummer

A person is pictured in a story about 1960s slang terms
Bummer. / Rebecca Smith/Moment via Getty Images

You can thank the notorious Hells Angels outlaw motorcycle gang for bringing bummer into the lexicon. According to Green’s Dictionary of Slang, the noun was originally used to describe “any unpleasant experience, depressing circumstances.” (The phrase riding a bummer, which popped up in Tom Wolfe’s 1968 book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, referred to “a bad trip on a motorcycle.”) It soon spread to describe a bad drug trip, whether you were part of a biker crew or not.

5. Fab

The Beatles are pictured in a story about 1960s slang terms
Fab indeed. / Avalon/GettyImages

Fab, short for fabulous, was imported to the U.S. right along with The Beatles circa 1963. The band was known as the “Fab Four.” According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the group also popularized the phrase moptop to describe their shaggy hairstyles, which were in sharp contrast to the conservative cuts of the ‘50s.

6. Flower Power

A flower power sign is pictured in a story about 1960s slang terms
Flower power. / Stanley Sherman/GettyImages

The rise of the counterculture hippie movement in the ‘60s that preached love over war quickly led to a noun to describe the group’s influence: flower power. The phrase stemmed from the flowers the iconoclasts often wore to demonstrate their pacifism. Devotees were flower children or flower people; hippies were also known as the flower-power generation. The noun youthquake also appeared in the mid-1960s to further describe the movement.

7. Sock It to Me

Dan Rowan and Dick Martin are pictured in a story about 1960s slang terms
They loved to sock things around. / John Springer Collection/GettyImages

To sock it has long meant to hit one (literally or figuratively) with harsh news or a high price. In the 1960s, the popular variety show Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In turned it into a catchphrase, one that meant “exhortation.” The phrase was considered so hip that getting stodgy then-presidential candidate Richard Nixon to agree to appear on the show in 1968 to do a line reading was the ultimate in comedy. (Nixon would sock it to the American people with Watergate just a few years later.)

8. Bogart

Humphrey Bogart is pictured in a story about 1960s slang terms
Bogie would never. / Sunset Boulevard/GettyImages

Yes, this term comes from famed Hollywood icon Humphrey Bogart, whose last name was turned into a verb. To bogart was to act with aggression, as the actor often did as a private detective in films like The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep. It was also used to criticize those who took more than their fair share, especially when monopolizing a shared marijuana cigarette—a reputed character trait of Bogart in real life. To bogart a joint was to be exceptionally rude.

9. Grungy

Kurt Cobain is pictured in a story about 1960s slang terms
Grungy didn't start with Kurt. / KMazur/GettyImages

Something dirty, filthy, rarely washed, or otherwise revolting was considered grungy. A 1960 Hartford Courant article attempted to get readers up to speed: “The next time you describe something you really like, call it ‘wiggy’—something very bad is ‘grungy.’” The noun grunge had a similar definition, while grunger referred to a person. (Urban grunge was also used to refer to the New York Dolls’ music in the 1970s, and grunge alone would become shorthand for the so-called Seattle sound of flannel-clad bands like Nirvana.) One could also use groady, which came from grotesque.

10. Boob Tube

A woman is pictured in a story about 1960s slang terms
Television got a bad rap in the '60s. / Apic/GettyImages

The uptick in color televisions in the 1960s helped grow a national television audience, which also gave way to concern that TVs were inviting too much passive engagement. The phrase boob tube received lots of play in the 1960s, though it dates back to at least 1957. It was used to describe the sets and their subjective lack of quality content. Glad they worked that problem out.

11. Freak Flag

Jimi Hendrix is pictured in a story about 1960s slang terms
Jimi could let a lot of things fly. / Evening Standard/GettyImages

When ‘60s outcasts wanted to wave their nonconformist views, they were said to be waving their freak flag high. The term likely originated with Jimi Hendrix, who used it in his 1967 song “If 6 Was 9.”

12. Marvy

A woman is pictured in a story about 1960s slang terms
Flowers are marvy. / portishead1/E+ via Getty Images

When something was marvelous, it was called marvy for short. The word was used both positively and negatively, with unpleasant experiences labeled marvy (or marvie) with a cutting tone.

13. Can You Dig It?

People are pictured in a story about 1960s slang terms
They can dig it. / Steven Clevenger/GettyImages

Are you picking up on someone’s point or vibe? Then maybe you dig it, a term that dates back to the late 1930s. A version of the phrase can you dig it saw an early printed mention in 1963 in a book review in the Independent Star-News of Pasadena, California.

14. Zit

A woman is pictured in a story about 1960s slang terms
Zit inspection. / image Source/DigitalVision via Getty Images

Zit is so common and so timeless it seems like it came right out of a medical textbook. Instead, it sprang from the slang of the ‘60s. Green’s doesn’t have a definitive source (the OED points to a 1965 advertisement), but it’s clear teens first started using zit to describe a persistent blackhead during the decade. They also used zat, zitz, and zort, but only zit has stuck.

15. Catch Some Rays

People are pictured at the beach in a story about 1960s slang terms
Sunbathing, '60s style. / United Archives/GettyImages

When you wanted to work on your tan in the late 1960s, you’d say you were going to catch some rays. Sunbathers would also cop, get, grab, or soak rays. By 2002, the phrase was being used as a farewell salutation: Have fun! Catch some rays!

16. A-Go-Go

Women are pictured in a story about 1960s slang terms
Evening fashion a-go-go. / Evening Standard/GettyImages

Fashion plates wearing the latest styles used the adjective a-go-go to describe their contemporary sensibilities. A 1960 Daily Times newspaper piece noted that “In Paris, tubular sweaters that come down to your thighs are dubbed sweaters a go go. Germany now has pajamas a go go.”

17. Golden Oldies

Records are pictured in a story about 1960s slang terms
Playing the hits. / swim ink 2 llc/GettyImages

What happens when a decade has nostalgia for another decade? They turn to phrases like golden oldies, which surfaced in a 1960 Arizona Republic article and was used to describe an older song or film that’s still popular in the current era. It likely sprang from the name of a radio show broadcasting older hits.

18. Cherry-Pick

Cherries are pictured in a story about 1960s slang terms
Cherry-picking can ruffle feathers. / Anna Blazhuk/Moment via Getty Images

A verb meaning “to choose the most beneficial item or outcome available,” cherry-pick came into use from the earlier colloquial use of the noun cherry-picker, which dates back to 1940.

19. Hacker

A hacker is pictured in a story about 1960s slang terms
'Hacker' goes back further than you think. / skaman306/Moment via Getty Images

For centuries, hacker was a noun for a tool that could chop up a tree. In the 1930s, it came to mean a bad golf player. But in the 1960s, it became a term for a person attempting to access a telephone network without permission, as someone tried to do at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1963. Today, it’s synonymous with computer network infiltration.

20. Handsy

A hand is pictured in a story about 1960s slang terms
Handy is good for fixing stuff. Handsy is good for nothing. / Roc Canals/Moment via Getty Images

When someone is making unwelcome advances, it’s called sexual harassment. In the 1960s, offenders were labeled handsy.

21. Getting the Munchies

Potato chips are pictured in a story about 1960s slang terms
A cure for the munchies. / Irina Marwan/Moment via Getty Images

While munchie has been used to describe a snack food since the early 20th century, it wasn’t until the late 1960s that the idiom getting or having the munchies took hold. Then and now, it describes the hunger brought on by marijuana consumption.

22. Power Trip

A kid is pictured in a story about 1960s slang terms
Dad's on a power trip. / Vincent Besnault/The Image Bank via Getty Images

The OED dates power trip back to at least 1968, when Newsweek described a person they were profiling as being “on a constant power trip,” or giddy with their own authority.

23. Groovy

People are pictured in a story about 1960s slang terms
Groovy. / Evening Standard/GettyImages

This adjective that describes something cool, hip, and happening is synonymous with the ‘60s, but it didn’t originate there. Groovy actually dates to the 1930s, when musicians were said to be in a focused state of mind while playing, or when something was thought to be excellent in general. It’s since taken on a kind of postmodern meaning and is used today to derisively and ironically refer to outdated culture of the ‘60s. Bummer.

24. Kidult

Boy in superhero costume.
Not a boy, but not quite a superhero. / Tetra Images, Brand X Pictures, Getty Images

This portmanteau of kid and adult has been kicking around since at least 1958 and usually refers to TV shows and movies that can appeal to both adults and youngsters (hello, MCU). Shows from the 1960s like The Flintstones fall under the kidult umbrella, although the term could also be used to describe an adult who just doesn’t want to grow up.

25. Bread

France To Hike Price Of Baguette Amid Rising Wheat And Energy Prices
Not the fun kind of bread. / Sam Tarling/GettyImages

If someone asked you for some bread back in the day, they might have been asking for a literal loaf, or it could have been a request to send a little cash their way. Although it dates back to the 1930s, using the noun bread to refer to money was common back in the 1960s, even popping up in Hunter S. Thompson’s 1967 nonfiction classic, Hell’s Angels.

Are you a logophile? Do you want to learn unusual words and old-timey slang to make conversation more interesting, or discover fascinating tidbits about the origins of everyday phrases? Then pick up our new book, The Curious Compendium of Wonderful Words: A Miscellany of Obscure Terms, Bizarre Phrases, & Surprising Etymologies, out June 6! You can pre-order your copy on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, or Bookshop.org.

A version of this article was originally published in 2023 and has been updated for 2024.

Read More About Slang From Different Decades: