24 slang words teens and Gen Zers are using in 2020, and what they really mean (2024)

Table of Contents
Extra: To be "extra" is to be unnecessarily dramatic and over the top. Periodt: "Periodt" is a word used at the end of a sentence, meant to add emphasis to a point that has been made. It is often regarded as a more extreme or intense version of "period." It is also often preceded by the words "and that's on" to add further emphasis. Snatched: The word "snatched" has two common definitions. The first refers to when someone is wearing something that is very fashionable, or has a look that looks really good. The second refers to the process of supporting an insult against someone who has lost an argument. Wig: "Wig" is a phrase used to refer to something that is amazing. It refers to the idea that what you saw was so amazing, and incited so much shock in you, that your wig flew off. Big Yikes: "Big Yikes" is a more intense version of the word "yikes." It refers to something that is so very embarrassing that another, much larger "yikes" is needed. Fit: Unlike the British version of the term "fit," which means attractive, in the United States, "fit" is just the shortened version of outfit. Bet: "Bet" is a word that has many uses. It can be used in lieu of the word "OK" or "YES," but it can also be used as a response when someone challenges you, instead of saying "watch" or "we'll see." Fire: "Fire" is used to refer to something that is really cool and amazing. Cap / No Cap: To "cap" is to lie about something, whereas "no cap" means to tell the truth. Shade: The word "shade" can be used as itself to refer to a situation where someone illustrated sneaky actions toward someone or something. On the other end, the person who has done the sneaky action has participated in the verb form of shade, which is to "throw shade." Flex: To "flex" (as a verb) is to knowingly flaunt and show off. As a noun, a "flex" is the thing being shown off itself. Go Off: "Go off" can be used to encourage a choice, or to support a rant or ridiculous behavior that's already occurred, usually meant humorously. Often, the phrase "I guess" follows it. Lewk: "Lewk" is a variation of "look," a signature physical trait, or a specially and carefully constructed outfit or appearance Lit: "Lit" is an adjective to describe when something's amazing, exciting, high-energy, or otherwise great. It can alternatively mean intoxicated or drunk. Lowkey / Highkey: "Lowkey" means slightly, secretly, modestly, or discretely. It's the opposite of "highkey," for when you're sincerely or assertively into something. Salty: To be "salty" is to be annoyed, upset, or bitter, usually about something minor. Slay: To "slay" is to do really well or succeed at something. The term first emerged during the 1970s and '80s in the midst of black drag and ballroom culture. Shook: If someone's "shook," they're affected by something, usually negatively and very emotionally. It can also mean shocked, surprised, or scared. Stan: "Stan" can be a noun for an overzealous and obsessive fan, and a verb meaning to be that kind of fan. It originated from an Eminem song of the same name. Someone can be a "stan" of a celebrity, or used as a verb, they can "stan" them. The word can also be used to express tame support of a person or a cause. Tea: "Tea" is gossip, and "spilling the tea" is the act of gossiping. We can also thank black drag culture for this iconic phrase. "Tea" is also used when one is agreeing with a point someone has just said. Thirsty: Someone is "thirsty" if they're overly eager and desperate, usually for attention, approval, or compliments. Yeet: "Yeet" is a versatile word, mostly used either as a verb or to narrate the process of discarding things at high velocity. Sksksksk: This phrase is also very versatile, but is mostly a filler expression of excitement, used when people do not know what else to say, or how to transition into a new phrase. It's popular among VSCO girls who use it to express their excitement. Simp: Basically the modern way of calling someone a schmoozer or a people pleaser, "simp" is mostly used to describe people (generally those who identify as male) who are willing to do anything to get somebody to fall in love with them.

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24 slang words teens and Gen Zers are using in 2020, and what they really mean (1)

  • Teens and members of Gen Z are using a slew of new slang terms, many of which are confusing to older generations.
  • If you've ever wondered what terms like "periodt," "snatched," or "big yikes" mean — then this guide is for you.
  • Here's a list of 24 popular Gen Z slang terms and the correct way to use each of them.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

24 slang words teens and Gen Zers are using in 2020, and what they really mean (2)

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24 slang words teens and Gen Zers are using in 2020, and what they really mean (4)

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In a world dominated by meme culture, ever-changing social media platforms, and the ability to cram your thoughts into a 280-character tweet, your grasp of basic slang can make or break your credibility as a functional and supposedly coolhuman.

Scroll through the comments of any Gen Z influencer's Instagram feed, and you may feel completely out of the loop on what the world is talking about.

Though many of these terms have been around for decades, oftentimes derived from the language of Black and queer communities, online spaces have made the spread, appropriation, and evolution of language more rapid than ever before.

Whether you're a millennial, Gen Xer, or baby boomer trying to stay up to date — or a Gen Zer in need of a refresher — here's a handy list of 24 popular slang terms and the correct way to use them all.

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Ally Spier contributed to an earlier version of this article.

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Extra: To be "extra" is to be unnecessarily dramatic and over the top.

24 slang words teens and Gen Zers are using in 2020, and what they really mean (5)

Flashpop / Getty Images

"She celebrated her birthday for an entire month. She's so extra."

Source: Merriam-Webster

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Periodt: "Periodt" is a word used at the end of a sentence, meant to add emphasis to a point that has been made. It is often regarded as a more extreme or intense version of "period." It is also often preceded by the words "and that's on" to add further emphasis.

24 slang words teens and Gen Zers are using in 2020, and what they really mean (6)

Adolescent Content /Caroline Japal / Getty Images

A comma separates "periodt" from the rest of the sentence. It also sometimes seen as "periot."

Situation One: "I don't want to hear anything else about what I'm doing wrong until you find ways to get yourself right, periodt."

Situation Two:"This is the best movie of all time, and that's on periodt."

Source:Urban Dictionary

Snatched: The word "snatched" has two common definitions. The first refers to when someone is wearing something that is very fashionable, or has a look that looks really good. The second refers to the process of supporting an insult against someone who has lost an argument.

24 slang words teens and Gen Zers are using in 2020, and what they really mean (7)

Pietro S. D'Aprano / Stringer / Getty Images

Situation One:"That outfit is snatched, you look so good."

Situation Two:"Then I said, 'by the way, everything you said and stand for is wrong, and I can't even believe people as ignorant as you exist'." "Oop, snatched."

Source: Urban Dictionary

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Wig: "Wig" is a phrase used to refer to something that is amazing. It refers to the idea that what you saw was so amazing, and incited so much shock in you, that your wig flew off.

24 slang words teens and Gen Zers are using in 2020, and what they really mean (8)

Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images

*Beyonce posts a photo*

Comments:"Wig!"

Source:Urban Dictionary

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Big Yikes: "Big Yikes" is a more intense version of the word "yikes." It refers to something that is so very embarrassing that another, much larger "yikes" is needed.

24 slang words teens and Gen Zers are using in 2020, and what they really mean (9)

Klaus Vedfelt/DigitalVision/Getty

"I thought I was posting it to my finsta but it went to my actual account."

"YIKES."

"Even worse: Now she knows I was with her boyfriend last night."

"BIG YIKES."

Source: Urban Dictionary

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Fit: Unlike the British version of the term "fit," which means attractive, in the United States, "fit" is just the shortened version of outfit.

24 slang words teens and Gen Zers are using in 2020, and what they really mean (10)

Gotham/GC Images / Getty Images

"She had on a fire fit at the party."

"Their fit was bold."

Source: Buzzfeed, Urban Dictionary

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Bet: "Bet" is a word that has many uses. It can be used in lieu of the word "OK" or "YES," but it can also be used as a response when someone challenges you, instead of saying "watch" or "we'll see."

24 slang words teens and Gen Zers are using in 2020, and what they really mean (11)

Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

Situation One: "Hey, I got your text message. See you at the club later." "Bet."

Situation Two: "You're not going to come to the party tonight. You never come to these types of events." "Alright, bet."

Source: Urban Dictionary

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Fire: "Fire" is used to refer to something that is really cool and amazing.

24 slang words teens and Gen Zers are using in 2020, and what they really mean (12)

Eugenio Marongiu / Getty Images

"That outfit is fire."

"The movie was fire, you have to check it out."

Source: Urban Dictionary

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Cap / No Cap: To "cap" is to lie about something, whereas "no cap" means to tell the truth.

24 slang words teens and Gen Zers are using in 2020, and what they really mean (13)

JGI/Tom Grill / Getty Images

"What you said is the biggest cap I've heard in a minute."

"All you do is cap, there's nothing real about you."

Source: Urban Dictionary

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Shade: The word "shade" can be used as itself to refer to a situation where someone illustrated sneaky actions toward someone or something. On the other end, the person who has done the sneaky action has participated in the verb form of shade, which is to "throw shade."

Eugenio Marongiu / Getty Images

"I see you over there throwing shade."

"She was out here throwing shade."

"You are being so shady right now, omg."

"Shade."

Source:Urban Dictionary

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Flex: To "flex" (as a verb) is to knowingly flaunt and show off. As a noun, a "flex" is the thing being shown off itself.

24 slang words teens and Gen Zers are using in 2020, and what they really mean (15)

Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images

Situation One: "He drove himself to school in a new car the day after he got his license. He's trying to flex."

Situation Two: "Big flex, I just got a job promotion last night."

Source: Bustle

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Go Off: "Go off" can be used to encourage a choice, or to support a rant or ridiculous behavior that's already occurred, usually meant humorously. Often, the phrase "I guess" follows it.

24 slang words teens and Gen Zers are using in 2020, and what they really mean (16)

Adolescent Content/Brittany Bravo

"You sat there for five minutes trying to tell me how to live my life, meanwhile I have yet to see you get yours together. But go off, I guess."

Source: Urban Dictionary

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Lewk: "Lewk" is a variation of "look," a signature physical trait, or a specially and carefully constructed outfit or appearance

24 slang words teens and Gen Zers are using in 2020, and what they really mean (17)

Steve Granitz/WireImage/Getty Images

"Their dress at prom was a lewk."

"Did you see Megan Thee Stallion's lewk in her newest video?"

Source: The Cut

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Lit: "Lit" is an adjective to describe when something's amazing, exciting, high-energy, or otherwise great. It can alternatively mean intoxicated or drunk.

24 slang words teens and Gen Zers are using in 2020, and what they really mean (18)

Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images

Situation One:"That party was lit."

Situation Two: "I was way too lit last night."

Source: Merriam-Webster Dictionary

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Lowkey / Highkey: "Lowkey" means slightly, secretly, modestly, or discretely. It's the opposite of "highkey," for when you're sincerely or assertively into something.

24 slang words teens and Gen Zers are using in 2020, and what they really mean (19)

Hello World / Getty Images

"I lowkey can't wait for summer to be over."

"I highkey love snow."

Source: Business Insider

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Salty: To be "salty" is to be annoyed, upset, or bitter, usually about something minor.

24 slang words teens and Gen Zers are using in 2020, and what they really mean (20)

shaunl / Getty Images

"You look really salty right now. What happened?"

"I'm mad salty right now though, lowkey."

Source: Urban Dictionary

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Slay: To "slay" is to do really well or succeed at something. The term first emerged during the 1970s and '80s in the midst of black drag and ballroom culture.

24 slang words teens and Gen Zers are using in 2020, and what they really mean (21)

Situation One: "She slayed that fit" or "I slayed that test."

Situation Two: "How do I look?" "Girl, you slay."

Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer, PushBlack Now, Business Insider

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Shook: If someone's "shook," they're affected by something, usually negatively and very emotionally. It can also mean shocked, surprised, or scared.

24 slang words teens and Gen Zers are using in 2020, and what they really mean (22)

ArtMarie / Getty Images

"Can't believe how that movie ended. I'm shook."

Source: Urban Dictionary

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Stan: "Stan" can be a noun for an overzealous and obsessive fan, and a verb meaning to be that kind of fan. It originated from an Eminem song of the same name. Someone can be a "stan" of a celebrity, or used as a verb, they can "stan" them. The word can also be used to express tame support of a person or a cause.

24 slang words teens and Gen Zers are using in 2020, and what they really mean (23)

Scott Barbour/Getty Images

Situation One: "I stan pretty hard for Lizzo."

Situation Two:"Don't say that to the 'Game of Thrones' stans."

Situation Three: "She is an incredible pop singer, unproblematic, who loves and supports equal rights. We have to stan."

Source: Rolling Stone

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Tea: "Tea" is gossip, and "spilling the tea" is the act of gossiping. We can also thank black drag culture for this iconic phrase. "Tea" is also used when one is agreeing with a point someone has just said.

24 slang words teens and Gen Zers are using in 2020, and what they really mean (24)

Matheus Ferrero / Unsplash

Situation One: "Spill the tea, what did he say?"

Situation Two: "Last night was a mess. Here's the tea."

Situation Three:"And then I said, I can't support or be with someone who doesn't love and support me." "Tea."

Source: Merriam-Webster, Urban Dictionary

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Thirsty: Someone is "thirsty" if they're overly eager and desperate, usually for attention, approval, or compliments.

24 slang words teens and Gen Zers are using in 2020, and what they really mean (25)

Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images

"He's posted, like, 10 selfies in the last hour. He's so thirsty."

Source: New York Times

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Yeet: "Yeet" is a versatile word, mostly used either as a verb or to narrate the process of discarding things at high velocity.

24 slang words teens and Gen Zers are using in 2020, and what they really mean (26)

Eugenio Marongiu / Getty Images

Situation One: As someone throws something into the trashcan, that person may scream "YEET."

Situation Two: "That car hit the fire hydrant and then quickly went away. It went YEET."

Source: Urban Dictionary

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Sksksksk: This phrase is also very versatile, but is mostly a filler expression of excitement, used when people do not know what else to say, or how to transition into a new phrase. It's popular among VSCO girls who use it to express their excitement.

24 slang words teens and Gen Zers are using in 2020, and what they really mean (27)

Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images

"Are you going to the party tonight?"

"SKSKSKSK YES!"

Source: Business Insider

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Simp: Basically the modern way of calling someone a schmoozer or a people pleaser, "simp" is mostly used to describe people (generally those who identify as male) who are willing to do anything to get somebody to fall in love with them.

24 slang words teens and Gen Zers are using in 2020, and what they really mean (28)

Tara Moore / Getty Images

While "simp" exploded in 2019 and 2020, the term and its current meaning actually originate from late 1980s and early '90s hip-hop, according to Dictionary.com.

"Yes, I bought her flowers, took her to dinner, gave her my Netflix password, and now we're planning to go to the park tomorrow to watch birds."

"Man, you're a simp."

Source: Urban Dictionary, Dictionary.com

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