A Guide to New Teen Slang and Gen Z Slang Trends of 2023
Does Gen Z have their own secret language or are you just old?
It often seems like teenagers' sole mission is to reject the way their parents do things, from fashion to music to how they use the English language.
Teen slang words are a constantly evolving dictionary that makes anyone above age 22 feel like they woke up in a foreign land.
But this stage too shall pass, and in the meantime parents of Gen Zers don't need to feel clueless each time their adolescent starts to speak. (Yeet? Fleek? Help!)
If you've just recently deciphered omg, lol, and tbh, or you finally figured out why everyone loathes a Karen, I hate to break it to you, Boomer, but your slang needs a major 2023 refresh.
You can safely bet your teens will continue to roll their eyes nearly every time you speak, but proper use of these new slang words and slang phrases will earn you at least grudging respect.
Although I wouldn't go around speaking like a TikTok teen at the office... that just majorly cringes.
Gen Z Slang Words Dictionary:
Rather than spend hours scrolling through the confusion and horror that's often found in the depths of Urban Dictionary, we've compiled the most popular teen slang and Gen Z slang/popular sayings right here!
Finding a particular “aesthetic” or style is a big trend among teens on social media, and is often used as another way that Gen Z experiments with their style and self-expression.
Someone’s aesthetic can refer to their fashion, music taste, bedroom decor preferences or just general vibe or interests. Some popular aesthetics of the 2020s include Y2K, E-Girl/E-Boy, Dark Academia, Downtown Girl, and many, many more!
Teens today are busy – sometimes too busy even for spaces, as evidenced by this mashup abbreviation of "Am I right?"
This word often doesn't require a response and is meant to emphasize something that both parties agree on. "The weekend could not get here sooner, amirite."
This is an easy one. Bestie generally refers to a best friend. However, Gen Z tends to use this term more loosely to address anyone — even strangers if they admire something about them. “Bestie” will often just serve as a friendly greeting.
I'll avoid literally spelling it out for you, but just imagine three more letters in the middle and you'll get the picture. Although sometimes used as a term of endearment among friends, you usually don't want to be labeled a bih.
A Bop refers to a good song/beat. Example: “Listen to this new KPop song—it's a bop!” For danceable, upbeat songs, “banger” is often frequently used.
Boujee is a shortened version of the French word bourgeoisie and is used to refer to something high-class, fancy or expensive. Oftentimes this is used as a bit of a mocking term for someone with expensive taste or who is trying to give off the impression that they’re wealthy.
Bussin is used among teens to refer to anything that is very good/positive. Ex. “That party on Saturday was bussin!”
This current use has garnered some criticism as, like with a lot of popular Gen Z slang, the term was originally used in African American Vernacular English (AAVE) particularly to refer to amazing food/meals. Some feel that this widespread use of the word has altered its original meaning.
Cap is a term referring to something fake/not authentic. Therefore, no cap refers to being real, authentic, and truthful.
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.”
When someone is the “CEO of” something, it means they are the very best at it or have mastered it.
Example: “You’re the CEO of video game reviews.”
A clapback refers to a strong or witty response to someone’s insult or attack. Hitting someone with a good clapback often shows someone is winning in an argument and has a better, more biting retort ready to counter their original point or criticism.
In slang terms, drip is a synonym for style, particularly the fashionable or sexy kind. If millennials had swag, Generation Z has drip.
Fam is used the way older generations may have used “bro” to refer to close friends that feel like family. Teens often will greet friends with a “Hey, fam!”
“Finna” refers to trying to do something or preparing to do something. The slang term comes from the phrase “fixing to.”
Example: “I’m finna to get a good part-time job this summer so I can finally buy a PS5.”
Think of these two as opposite ends of the cool spectrum. Something wonderful is fire, while something terrible is trash. In other words, it's like Grease versus Grease 2.
When teenagers use this word, they're usually not talking about someone who's been hitting the gym. Instead, fit is short for outfit.
Example: "That fit is on point! Do you have a hot date or something?"
When something inspires aspirational envy, or two things go together extremely well, the reaction is, "Goals."
Example: "Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds' marriage is goals." Another example: "Parents keeping up with their teenager's lingo for more than a month? Goals."
The term “Heather” may be confusing to the older generations, especially those Gen X-ers who grew up with the 1980s cult-classic film “Heathers” where the titular Heathers referred to a group of popular, mean girls.
However, in Gen Z Slang and on TikTok the term “Heather” has been applied to mean the exact opposite. Someone who is a “Heather” is considered a beautiful, admirable person who everyone wants to be like. The term was likely inspired by Gen Z artist Conan Gray’s song “Heather” about a girl who was the object of affection of his crush.
When something hits different, it is significantly better than usual, as in, "A nap on a cold, rainy afternoon just hits different."
It’s the “X” for Me
It's the __ for me is a versatile Gen Z phrase that emphasizes a particular aspect of someone’s appearance or behavior that either caught their interest in a positive or repulsive way.
For example, if a teen debuts a great new makeup look before a date, their friends may respond “It’s the red lipstick for me.”
Alternatively, when mocking or complaining about something like an unfair teacher, you could use this phrase like “it’s the yelling at 6 am on a Tuesday for me...”
If you know what this one stands for, you know. (See what I did there?) Often used on social media alongside more obscure TV show or movie references, or to caption an otherwise unlabeled photo.
Saying that someone or something “lives rent-free” in your mind describes when you can’t stop thinking or obsessing about a particular person or situation, even though they likely aren’t thinking about you.
Describing holding onto grudges, resentments or anxieties as letting them “live rent-free” emphasizes that these thoughts are only harming yourself and taking away from your well-being.
When your teen wants to express a feeling or desire without coming on too strong, she may add the adjective low-key or lowkey to help downplay it.
Example: "They're announcing who made varsity today, and I'm low-key freaking out," or, "He's low-key cute, but I'm keeping my options open." (Predictably, high-key means the exact opposite.)
Main Character/Main Character Syndrome
Trying to be the main character or having main character syndrome refers to someone who behaves as if they are always the protagonist in life events. Someone with main character syndrome may come off as self-centered or self-obsessed, regularly dramatizing or romanticizing everyday problems or events in their lives to make them sound more exciting or important.
Mid is a shortened slang term for “middle” that refers to something that is just okay, average or unimpressive.
Example: “I was really excited to watch the “Euphoria” finale but it was pretty mid and unexciting, what a letdown.”
Moods are something your teenager has in bulk. But when it comes to Gen Z slang, mood refers to something the speaker can relate to or agrees with. For example, after a tough day, your teen might post a photo of a screaming toddler with the caption "Mood" to express solidarity. Mutuals
Mutuals, sometimes shorted to moots, are two people who follow each other and interact on social media. It's a common word on TikTok and other platforms to refer to internet friends.
Pronounced "mook-bong," this form of entertainment originated in South Korea and features live footage of someone eating large amounts of food.
Its popularity gained steam on YouTube during the coronavirus (or "rona," to your teen) pandemic, and many fans find the videos and their accompanying eating noises comforting and relaxing.
An opp (short for opponent) is an enemy or competitor, someone who is working against you in some way. The next time you deny your teen's request for cash or an outing on a school night, you might find yourself in the opp category.
A funny purposeful misspelling of “period.” Periodt is used to emphasize that a statement is final/the conversation is definitively over.
Example: “I’ll win this fight any day of the week, easily. Periodt!”
The Pick Me or Pick Me Girl trend blew up on TikTok in 2022 starting many conversations about feminism and female friendships A Pick Me Girl or someone with Pick Me energy refers to a girl who tries to present herself as “not like other girls” in order to impress boys.
Pick me girls will often put down traditionally girly hobbies/interests and claim they prefer to be friends with men over women because girls are “too much drama.”
The exact meaning may vary, but savage, like dope or fierce, is definitely a compliment. A teen may call their friend savage for a particularly well-done insult or retort. Doing something savage shows bravery or a total lack of care/fear.
As Megan Thee Stallion and Beyonce taught us, anyone or anything savage refers to something extremely cool and unbothered.
Sheesh is a pretty explanatory term that even parents may already be familiar with. Teens often exclaim “sheesh” to express that they are impressed or in a state of disbelief or exasperation.
If your teen says “I’m shook” about something, they are shocked, surprised or overwhelmed. Shook can both be used positively to express awe or negatively to express fear or anxiety.
Example: “Omg I can’t believe my sister surprised me with tickets to Taylor Swift for my birthday! I was so shook!”
A simp is a derogatory Gen Z term for someone (often a man but not exclusively) who is seen as desperate or doing too much for the attention/affection of someone they like.
Simps or white knights are generally seen as people who constantly do favors, compliment and try to impress the object of their affection, even when that affection is unrequited.
When a relationship is more than friends but less than a couple, it might be a situationship. Think of it as the modern counterpart to the old Facebook relationship status option, "It's complicated."
As you might guess if something slaps, it’s a hit! Slaps is used among teens to describe something really great.
Example: “The beat on this new single totally slaps!”
To sleep on something is to overlook its importance or value. "Don't sleep on that new guidance counselor; I heard she used to be a backup dancer for Doja Cat."
When you're looking your best, your teen might grace you with the compliment "snatched," or particularly stylish. Savor it, because moments like this don't come around often. Snatched is another Gen Z slang term that originated with AAVE, particularly in the Black drag community to refer to the outfits and appearances of drag queens.
Stan combines the words “stalker” and “fan.” A stan is an obsessive fan of something but not on a creepy level.
The “stan” term originates from the Eminem song “Stan” about an obsessive fan of Eminem who wrote him letters about wanting to kidnap him. Today, stan is often used in a less negative context to declare yourself a super fan of a specific artist or celebrity.
Sus or Sussy is an increasingly popular alternative gen Z slang term that is shortened version of “suspicious.” It entered the mainstream thanks to the video game “Among Us” and now refers to anyone or anything that seems a little...off.
The vibe is the general mood, atmosphere or aesthetic of a person or situation. A “vibe check” is generally used as a way to survey the overall aura of a person or group. The phrase “passing the vibe check” is a compliment to someone who seems like a good or chill person.
Example: "The new kid let me use their charger this morning when I left mine on the bus and complimented my hair. They definitely pass the vibe check.”
An acronym for "Where you at?" that's usually used in text messages. Feel free to use it the next time your teen breaks curfew: "WYA, get home NOW."
To yassify something or someone is to glam them up until they're almost unrecognizable. It originally referred to influencers' common use of beauty filters on social media, but in late 2021 a YassifyBot account popped up on Twitter and began churning out images of famous faces (think Michelle Obama or Severus Snape) digitally enhanced until they look like Bratz dolls.
According to Urban Dictionary, “Zaddy” is a term generally used for put-together and attractive men who are seen as being incredibly stylish. This term is not exclusive to older men but instead can be used for anyone who gives off an air of swagger and confidence.
Zillennials (or Zennials) are a group born right on the cusp of the millennial and Generation Z generational divide. These individuals are generally classified as being born between 1992-1998 and relate strongly to both millennial and Gen Z stereotypes.
This Gen Z slang term refers to the people themselves! Zoomers are the generation born
after the millennials (also known as Generation Y). Gen Z’ers were born in the late 1990s/early-mid 2000s. The term zoomer is also seen as a spinoff of the term baby boomers, the generation born following World War II (between 1946 to 1964).
Looking for more slang? Check out: The Newest Teen Slang Trends of 2021.
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Robin is a mom of three and longtime journalist who previously worked for The Associated Press covering California and national politics.