We decode over 20 essential Gen Z slang phrases your teens and tweens are using – from yeet to flex, no cap and more
Believe us mamas, nothing will make you feel more lost or irrelevant than if you’re unable to decipher what the Gen Z kids are talking about (or texting about, or posting on Tik Tok, more likely). New slang terms come up every so often and we need to keep up to know what our kids are saying!
Hate to break it to you, but if you’re still saying “Yaaas”, “lit” or “on fleek”, you’d be called ‘old’ so fast, no cap. Millennials are officially going out of style (we’re parents ourselves, after all) and the teens of Gen Z are making fun of them for it. Lucky for you, this resident millennial has a 17-year-old younger sibling to translate and let us (and now you!) in on what all the cool kids are saying. Read on for our guide to Gen Z slang terms, mamas!
‘no exaggeration’ or ‘for real’
How to use it: “That really happened, no cap.”
AF is an acronym for “as f*ck”. This oldie but goodie is often used as an adjective to emphasise and exaggerate a statement.
How to use it: “My daughter broke my favourite highlighter today. I’m mad af.”
Mainstream, or used to describe someone or something that’s very common — usually with a negative connotation.
How to use it: “Wait, so you wear Crocs? That’s so basic.”
An expression describing how one is feeling in relation to something they’re posting or conversing about. See also: the “Mood” sticker on Instagram Stories.
Gen Z kid: *Posts a photo of an 80s model on the beach wearing designer clothing*. Caption: “Big mood”
For once this actually does mean what the root word implies, but kids these days use it to describe anything that’s embarrassing or try-hard. The Gen Z spelling has no time for that extra ‘e’ in cringey.
How to use it: “Did you see the Tik Tok he just made? It was so cringy.”
Highly admired personal style/designer fashion
How to use it: “You see this drip? Girl you could never.”
New age goths. It usually describes the aesthetic of wearing gothic fashion while simultaneously being interested in gaming.
How to use it: “Doja Cat is the queen of E-girl style.”
Another way to say ‘gonna’. A shortened version of the U.S. Southern phrase “I’m fixin’ to…” and also perhaps derived from the Jamaican word “fi” (“to do”).
How to use it: “Finna finish this pizza all by myself.”
[Noun OR verb] Brag.
Person: *describes something they did recently*
Gen Z kid: “Weird flex but ok.”
Fear Of Missing Out.
How to use it: “I couldn’t make it to Boutiques this past weekend and had major FOMO.”
How to use it: “I’m so tired man fr.”
Greatest Of All Time.
How to use it: “NGL [see below!] Post Malone is the GOAT fr.”
I can’t even
Ever been so speechless that you just can’t find the words? “I can’t even” is an expression commonly used when someone is feeling either so overjoyed or exasperated that they can’t even find the right words; depending on the context. May also be accompanied by collapsing in total exasperation.
How to use it: “Everything that could go wrong today actually went wrong today. I can’t even.”
‘In Real Life’.
How to use it: “After following her on IG for so long I finally got to met her IRL!”
A stereotype for women who behave unreasonably – especially towards service staff or people of colour – and tend to invoke their racial privilege. There seem to have been more and more Karen stories in the news lately.
How to use it: Woman: *telling a story about a minor inconvenience she had in a store* “…And then I asked to speak to the manager.”
Friend: “Did you have to be such a Karen about it?”
How to use it: “As much as I love how this new diet is making me feel, I low key can’t wait for cheat day.”
Don’t take offence if your teen decides to call one of their idols ‘mom’ or ‘dad’. It just means to admire or look up to someone so much that you jokingly want to be adopted by them or have them as your second (third?) parent. Totally normal.
How to use it: “Omg MOM ” (usually in an Instagram comment or Twitter reply)
Not Gonna Lie.
Someone who’s desperate to please another person.
To describe something that’s really good
How to use it: “Yo that song actually slaps.”
As described by Ellen Degeneres to mean “had not paid attention to”, ‘sleeping on’ was most recently introduced to the general public on television by American ice skater Adam Rippon. Here you can see the term in action as he passionately describes how he had not noticed before how cute Shawn Mendes actually was.
How to use it: “Stop sleeping on heartland malls. They seriously have some of the best playgrounds!”
Originating from Eminem’s iconic song of the same name, ‘stan’ is the term used for the obsessive fans of a popular celebrity. It can also be used as a verb.
How to use it: “I’m a Beyoncé stan.” OR “I will stan Beyoncé forever!”
Bitter or upset.
How to use it: “Did my toddler really just roll her eyes at me? She must be salty that I ate the last donut.”
Diss. Also: throwing shade; being shady.
How to use it: “Boss was totally throwing shade at you during our meeting today.”
Surprised or shocked.
How to use it: “Omg, can’t believe I managed to cook tonight and be in bed before 9! I’m shook!”
‘Shake my head’.
How to use it: “I thought I could get some sleep last night but my kid kept me up all night smh.”
TBH is short for “to be honest” and is usually used when making a comment or a joke.
How to use it: “Planning this birthday party is gonna drain me tbh.”
Meaning ‘gossip’, ‘scoop’ or ‘news’, ‘tea’ is not just your average afternoon beverage anymore.
How to use it: “So what happened last week? Spill the tea.”
An acronym for “the f*ck”. Sometimes used to abbreviate “wtf” (seriously, how lazy are we?!).
How to use it: *while texting* “Our daughter just broke my most expensive makeup item tf.”
Desperate, usually for attention. Related: Thirst trap: a social media post intended to, uh, entice viewers and get attention.
How to use it: “Be careful not to post too many selfies on the same day, or you’re gonna end up looking thirsty.”
“Jason Derulo is the undisputed king of IG thirst traps.”
Meaning ‘well-informed’ or used to describe someone who’s aware of the current social/political climate.
How to use it: “Did you watch that video of Jaden Smith reading mind-blowing facts about the universe? He’s woke af.”
The Gen Z version of YOLO (you only live once). Usually exclaimed when doing something risky or throwing an item very hard.
How to use it: “Imma throw this straight into the net, just watch. Yeet!”
Lead image via The Penny Matters