35 Trending Gen Z Slang Phrases and What They Mean

Updated: July 29, 2021
Here are 35 of the latest Gen Z slang words and phrases that are trending this year, and what they mean, where they came from, and examples of how they are used.
25 Gen Z slang terms parents should know
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Nothing makes parents feel older than listening to younger generations use slang words and having no idea what they are talking about. Fortunately, we have a guide to the top 35 Gen Z slang phrases that all parents should know.

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If you’re not sure what demographic the term Gen Z even refers to, you can consider all of the youth in your life who were born after 1996. To save you from doing the math, that means that the oldest among the Gen Z demographic will be turning 24 years old this year.

The COVID-19 pandemic turned the world upside down for Gen Z-ers, and their future was made to feel very uncertain. They spent a lot of time worrying about what’s to come, so let’s spend a few minutes getting to know their world by learning the top 25 Gen Z slang terms (which will probably evolve before we even finish learning these Gen Z slang terms!).

Older generations, millennials, Gen X-ers, and even the baby boomer group can LOL their way through this article as they learn new words. Try to think back to how you may have used these words in high school and make sure to feel proud of yourself when you understand a bit more of the latest trendy TV show!

1. Cancel Culture

Meaning: Cancel culture is a form of online shaming to express disappointment in the views or actions of a public figure, company, or organization. It is a way that Gen Z is using their voices on social media, often for the good. Like with many things these days, irreparable damage can be done to someone’s reputation based on false information or rumor.

Example: “That company is making such bad choices for the environment. They are canceled in my book.”

Where it came from: The roots of cancel culture have been present throughout history, but it has been accelerated in recent years thanks to the predominance of social media.

Uses in pop culture: Twitter users utilized cancel culture to condemn Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling after she made anti-trans comments.

2. CEO

Meaning: When someone is the “CEO of” something, it means they are the very best at it or have mastered it.

Example: “You’re a CEO of being TikTok famous.” (Urban Dictionary)

Where it came from: It’s a play on the actual definition of CEO in business.

Uses in pop culture: You can be a “CEO of trick shots” on TikTok

3. E-boy and E-girl

Meaning: E-boys and E-girls use the internet to express themselves and are similar to being semi-emo or goth.

Example: “Those e-girls are all about sad boy music.”

Where it came from: They are a youth subculture that emerged in the 2010s. They came from “electronic boy” and “electronic girl”.

Uses in pop culture: There is a Japanese girl group called E-girls.

4. Fam

Meaning: Fam is used the way our generation may have used “bro.” This term is used for your closest of friends.

Example: “So glad you are part of my fam.”

Where it came from: It’s a derivative from the word family.

Uses in pop culture: It’s used for friends who feel like family.

5. Glow Up

Meaning: Glow up describes a makeover or transformation from bad to good in some way. If you think a new haircut makes you more attractive, you might refer to this as a “glow up.”

Example: “She has really had a glow up since the last time I saw her!” (Urban Dictionary)

Where it came from: It can be traced back to August 2013 when rapper Chief Keef dropped "Gotta Glo Up One Day."

Uses in pop culture: Many glow up videos now go viral on YouTube.

6. I’m Baby

Meaning: Feeling helpless or not capable in a certain area of your life? You might want to try the Gen Z term “I’m baby.”

Example: “You can’t be mad at me because I’m baby.” (Urban Dictionary)

Where it came from: It originated in 2017 on Tumblr.

Uses in pop culture: The I’m baby meme has gone viral.

7. Stan

Meaning: Stan combines the words “stalker” and “fan.” A stan is an obsessive fan of something but not on a creepy level.

Example: “Person 1: I just love Ariana Grande so much I would die for her I would track her every move if I could
Person 2: woah don't be such a stan” (Urban Dictionary)

Where it came from: It is a reference to the Eminem song "Stan".

Uses in pop culture: People will be called a stan if they are obsessed with a TV show or band.

8. W

Meaning: Gen Z can be so mysterious that sometimes, they only use a single letter to express something. “Win” can be too many letters to type, so you can just use “W.”

Example: “I didn’t oversleep today, so that is a W.”

Where it came from: It’s an abbreviated term for the word win.

Uses in pop culture: It most likely came from young people typing as quickly as possible in text messages.

9. Woke

Meaning: Woke refers to political awareness. People who are woke are not politically incorrect.

Example: “Yeah most people don't care about parking spaces for families with disabled pets. I wish they were woke like me.” (Urban Dictionary)

Where it came from: “Stay woke” emerged from African American vernacular back in the 1930s.

Uses in pop culture: References to woke people are made when they care about having an open mind and things like the earth, Black Lives Matter, and feminism.

10. TFW

Meaning: TFW is an abbreviation for “that feeling when.”

Example: “TFW you have a hot cup of coffee in a quiet house.”

Where it came from: It was possibly developed from the earlier meme "I Know That Feel Bro," which depicted simply drawn characters hugging each other in empathy.

Uses in pop culture: The term is often used ironically when people are over exaggerating on social media.

11. Sip Tea

Meaning: Sip tea is a phrase that is used when you are just sitting back and listening to the gossip as opposed to participating in it.

Example: “"What did you two do last night?"
"sip tea" (Urban Dictionary)

Where it came from: Sip tea was coined in 2018 as an alternative to "Spill the tea," which encourages people to share gossip.

Uses in pop culture: The term originated and is still used in black drag culture.

12. Snack

Meaning: A snack is a term you might use to describe a person that you find attractive.

Example: “Look at that snack over there. She looks good!”

Where it came from: It emerged in the 2000s and was on Twitter by 2009.

Uses in pop culture: You will often find this work on social media spelled as snacc.

13. Wig

Meaning: “Wig” is something you can say to express admiration for something when it is so exciting to you that your wig might be blown off.

Example: “1: I got free tickets to Katy Perry's show!
2: No way omg WIG!” (Urban Dictionary)

Where it came from: It started as a piece of African-American Vernacular English (AAVE) and then became a commonly used slang term by the hands of pop music fans online who began using it as a complementary response to their favorite artists.

Uses in pop culture: Katy Perry famously used the term wig on American Idol.

14. Big Yikes

Meaning: Big yikes takes regular yikes to a new level. You use it when you’re so embarrassed that “yikes” doesn’t do it justice.

Example: “How do you think you did in the test? Big yikes?”
“Big Yikes” (Urban Dictionary)

Where it came from: Etymonline says "exclamation of alarm or surprise, by 1953; perhaps from yoicks, a call in fox-hunting, attested from c. 1770."

Uses in pop culture: This term is a play on yikes which has been popularly used in the Scooby Doo TV episodes.

15. Salty

Meaning: If you feel salty, it means that you are jealous.

Example: “I feel so salty when I see those two together.”

Where it came from: It was first used around 1920 for sailors who were thought to be tough and aggressive.

Uses in pop culture: Salty has reemerged as a term thanks to hip hop, video gaming, and general youth usage.

16. Lewk

Meaning: Lewk is the term for something that is your very own personal signature style. If you wear a certain kind of something every day, that would be your “lewk.”

Example: “I don’t usually like bangs, but I like them on her. It’s her lewk” (Urban Dictionary)

Where it came from: It’s a respelling of the word look.

Uses in pop culture: The term was popularized around 2010 by fashion stylist Brad Goreski on the reality television series The Rachel Zoe Project.

17. Boujee

Meaning: Boujee is a term that you could use to describe someone who is fancy and likes extravagant things.

Example: “She’s so boujee with all of her fancy swag.”

Where it came from: It come from the 16th-century French term bourgeoisie.

Uses in pop culture: In 2016, a hit hip-hop song by the trio Migos, “Bad and Boujee,” introduced a new take on the term.

18. Dank

Meaning: Dank is slang for something that is excellent and very high quality.

Example: “Dude.. that is a DANK emblem!” (Urban Dictionary)

Where it came from: In the 1980s, dank emerged as slang for something excellent.

Uses in pop culture: “According to Know Your Meme, one notable early instance of the phrase featured the so-called Gnome Child (a character from the online game Runescape) with the caption: 'born just in time to browse dank memes.' Another shows a baby dressed as a police officer writing a ticket, with the caption 'ur getting a ticket sir that meme wasn’t dank enough.' (Dictionary.com)

19. Finna

Meaning: Finna is short for saying “I am going to.”

Example: “I am finna order some pizza.”

Where it came from: Finna emerged from fixing to in African American English and is recorded in hip-hop lyrics in the late 1980s. (Dictionary.com)

Uses in pop culture: The term gained mainstream use through hip hop culture, set into motion by African Americans in the 1980’s. It was featured in songs performed by NWA, as well as King Tee and several others. (Slanglang.net)

20. Ghosting

Meaning: If you ghost someone, it means you suddenly start ignoring something. This usually happens in the phase of early dating over text.

Example: “We were texting so much but then he totally ghosted me.”

Where it came from: It originated in the early 2000s, typically referring to dating and romantic relationships.

Uses in pop culture: This term is often used in discussion about dating apps.

21. Hypebeast

Meaning: A hypebeast is someone who cares too much about things that are popular rather than being more of an individual.

Example: “Look at him, he’s head to toe with Gucci. Must be a hardcore hypebeast.”

Where it came from: The term has its roots in the history of streetwear.

Uses in pop culture: In 2005, sneaker enthusiast and college student Kevin Ma created a website to document his fashion interests. He chose to call it Hypebeast after the slang term for a trend-chaser. (Dictionary.com)

22. L

Meaning: L is the opposite of the vague slang “W.” You use it to reference a loss as opposed to the win of “W.”

Example: “We tried really hard in the game but still caught an L.”

Where it came from: It comes from the world of rap, where it started on rap battle scorecards but was soon used in the music as it's easier to rhyme with than “loss”. (GrammarHow.com)

Uses in pop culture: L is used in rap battles on scorecards.

23. Take Several Seats

Meaning: If someone is being extremely annoying, you might tell them to “take several seats.”

Example: “After watching her friend raise her hand to answer every question, she muttered take several seats under her breath.”

Where it came from: This term is derived from the phrase "have a seat."

Uses in pop culture: This term was used in Black gay ballroom culture.

24. Whip

Meaning: Whip is another word for car.

Example: “That is one nice whip you’ve got there. Is it a BMW?”

Where it came from: This is actually a reference to the history of cars when steering wheels were first introduced and called whips.

Uses in pop culture: Hip Hop artists first started using this term to reference Mercedes-Benz vehicles.

25. Steez

Meaning: When someone has “steez,” it means they have effortless style. A true compliment.

Example: “This dude doesn't even have enough steez to get his facts right.” (Urban Dictionary)

Where it came from: The term was originally from the song "Shadowboxin" by GZA and Method Man.

Uses in pop culture: This term has been further sampled in other rap songs since then.

26. No cap

Meaning: This term conveys being real, authentic, and truthful.

Example: “I would only get perms because people who wear pullouts are fake, no cap.” (Urban Dictionary)

Where it came from: According to Urban Dictionary, “The phrase originated in reference to decorative gold teeth, which can be divided into two distinct varieties: permanent gold teeth (aka "perms") or caps (aka "pullouts"). Whereas caps can be pulled out with ease, perms, as their name suggests, are permanent. They cannot be taken out for a job interview or court date. They are an honest and lasting expression of the owners' realness.”

Uses in pop culture: No cap is a popular phrase in hip hop music.

27. Yeet

Meaning: To throw something away with high velocity.

Example: “Alex finishes his soda and proceeds to yeet his empty can into a trash bin.” (Urban Dictionary)

Where it came from: The term goes back to Urban Dictionary in 2008 as a way to express excitement.

Uses in pop culture: In 2014, there was a dance move called Yeet that gained popularity on Vine and YouTube.

28. High-key

Meaning: High-key is the opposite of being low-key.

Example: “I highkey want to be at that party right now!”

Where it came from: Rapper Styles P used the line "lowkey or highkey" on a Young Roddy track in September 2013.

Uses in pop culture: The artist Drake is credited with pushing the term into the mainstream.

29. Low key

Meaning: Calm or secretive.

Example: “I don’t want anyone to know. Keep this lowkey.”

Where it came from: Rapper Styles P used the line "lowkey or highkey" on a Young Roddy track in September 2013.

Uses in pop culture: The artist Drake is credited with pushing the term into the mainstream.

30. Periodt

Meaning: A way to express facts usually used at the end of a sentence.

Example: “That is what happened. Periodt.”

Where it came from: It originated from the Black gay community.

Uses in pop culture: It is used mostly in written web culture.

31. Cheugy

Meaning: Cheugy means the opposite of trendy.

Example: “My friend told me to change out of my favorite pair of Miss Me jeans because they were cheugy.” (Urban Dictionary)

Where it came from: It was coined by Gaby Rasson, a software developer in Los Angeles who started using the word back in 2013 while attending Beverly Hills High School.

Uses in pop culture: This term is often used on Tiktok.

32. dms

Meaning: An abbreviation for direct messages.

Example: “I have so many dms on Insta that I can’t even keep up.”

Where it came from: This term originated from Instagram in 2013.

Uses in pop culture: This term is often used in dating app culture discussion.

33. Simp

Meaning: Someone who does way too much for the person they like.

Example: “He is a major simp for ditching us to be with that girl.”

Where it came from: The term appeared in the New York Times as early as 1923, when the paper reported on a letter by one Lillian Henderson criticizing the members of two clubs in Atlantic City for unmarried men: Those bachelor simps are afraid to take a chance and too tight to share their earnings with a wife. (Wikipedia)

Uses in pop culture: The rapper Too Short used the term in lyrics back in 1985.

34. TBH

Meaning: To be honest

Example: “TBH I think you are amazing.”

Where it came from: TBH appeared as early as 1991.

Uses in pop culture: Tbh, rate, and date is a social-media prompt in which someone requests friends’ opinions of them. (Dictionary.com)

35. Cringe

Meaning: A term used for when someone is extremely embarrassing or awkward.

Example: “That guy won’t stop and is so cringe!”

Where it came from: It comes from the act of cringing in response to embarrassing things.

Uses in pop culture: Cringe comedy isa genre focused on socially awkward situations.