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As technology advances and we get closer to the possibility of a Black Mirror-esque scenario becoming real, the world enters a new chapter dominated more and more by the internet culture. Most of our social interactions are now influenced by memes, dynamic social media platforms and our desire to be unique, heard and belong to a certain group of people who we perceive as “cool”. And slang words are a great way to show everyone around us just that!
Lexico powered by Oxford defines “slang” as “a type of language consisting of words and phrases that are regarded as very informal, are more common in speech than writing, and are typically restricted to a particular context or group of people”. For example, the slang words and phrases we are going to talk about today are defining for two generations known as “millennials” and “gen z” – but mostly “gen z” because – let’s face it – today’s teenagers have come up with tons of new slang terms that even I, as a millennial, have trouble understanding. Praised be the mighty internet for slang dictionaries!
So whether you millennial desperately trying to stay cool – like me, a Gen X-er striving to understand the new generations or a baby boomer who wants to be the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) grandpa or grandma, you’ve come to the right place. Why? ‘Cause we’re about to absolutely slay this list of popular slang words! And not just with English slang terms, but also with Spanish, French, German and even Japanese slang. You never know when you might need them. So… Yas! Let’s do this!
1. Gen Z slang words in English
Does Gen Z slang sometimes look like some secret unbreakable code to you? Well, you are not alone. But TBH (To Be Honest), once you get the hang of it and realize how relatable and fun it is, it becomes quite addictive to use in your day-to-day conversations.
So get ready to hear new meanings for words you thought you knew and prepare for heavy eye-rolling every time you’ll use your newly acquired lingo around teens. Here are some of the most common slang words used in the English language today:
When something is very good, enjoyable, or exciting, you can say it’s “lit”.
Dude, the party last night was lit! Where were you?
When someone is “extra”, it means they are unnecessarily dramatic, excessive, over the top or a “drama queen”.
She invited the entire school to her birthday. She’s so extra!
You can say someone is salty when they get upset or angry over something minor.
Nick is so salty since his parents took away his car!
To ghost someone
When you cut off communication with someone you’re no longer interested in.
OMG! Did you hear Cristina ghosted Matt?
Another way of saying someone is showing off.
Nowadays, teens have started using the slang phrase “weird flex but OK” as a snarky and mocking response to someone bragging about something considered questionable, bizarre or unusual.
– Andrew’s trying to flex with that new no-name smartphone of his.
– Yeah. Like weird flex but OK.
Lowkey & highkey
Lowkey is the opposite of highkey and it can be used as a way of saying that you liked or done something secretly, modestly or quietly.
I lowkey rooted for Daenerys to remain on the iron throne.
Paul is highkey trying to learn Spanish for Elena.
When someone is shook it means they are shocked or incredibly surprised.
– Did you see? The new season of Lucifer just landed on Netflix!
– OMG I’m shook! I need to watch it ASAP!
When someone is “spilling the tea”, it means they are gossiping.
What happened at Jessica’s birthday party? Come on, spill the tea!
To clap back
To respond to another person’s criticism.
Maria is quick to quick to clap back at everyone who says she doesn’t have a nice British accent.
A cold way of dismissing someone.
– You were rude. I’m gonna leave now.
– Bye, Felicia!
Used to express something that is relatable.
– Ugh! I wish I was in Bora Bora right now.
When you are so hungry that you are angry! (probably the most relatable slang word Gen Z taught us).
I’m so hangry right now I could eat five burgers in one sitting!
Other lit mentions: gucci (good, doing well, feeling fine), TFW (that feeling when), squad (a group of friends), JOMO (Joy Of Missing Out), fam (a group of friends that feels like family), dank (really cool), basic (interested in mainstream or very popular things), woke (being aware of current events), receipts (proof or evidence of something that happened).
Why is it important to learn foreign slang words?
It may be indecent, colorful or obscene, but slang is a crucial part of any language. Just think about how criminals started using slang so police or other people who are not in their crime circle would not understand what they are saying. Isn’t that great evidence of how creative people can be? Regardless of their social status or intentions.
But besides being understood only within a particular group, slang can also be general. For instance, almost every native English speaker knows that to be “filthy rich” doesn’t mean to be dirty, but to have a lot of money. In this situation, slang changes its objective of being limited to a certain group to, as Eric Partridge observes, easing the social intercourse and to reducing the solemnity, the pomposity, the excessive seriousness of a conversation. So slang brings us closer and enriches the language.
That being said, let’s continue with some very common slang words in some of the most spoken languages in the world. Slang you’ll probably hear and later use if you decide to learn any of these languages.
2. Spanish slang words
As you may expect, the Spanish language isn’t short on slang words. On the contrary! Each Spanish-speaking country often has its own slang. But today we are going to learn only the most common of the Spanish slang words, the ones you are more likely to hear during your trip to a Spanish speaking country.
- Dar la lata
To be really annoying, to speak without someone having asked you something.
- Echar una mano
To lend someone a hand, to help someone. For example, “I need you to lend me a hand with the boxes” will translate to necesito que me eches una mano con las cajas in Spanish.
Referring not to the brother of your mother or father but to a “dude”, “fellow”, “guy”, “mate”, “buddy” or “friend”. If you watched at least five episodes of a soap opera, you must have heard the expression ¿Que pasa, tío? (What’s up, dude?) at some point.
- Caña or ser la caña
Apart from being a beer size you can order in a pub, “caña” can also be used to say that something is really cool or amazing. For example, you can use it to describe a city: Me alegro de que hayamos venido! Esta ciudad es una caña! (I’m glad we came. This city is amazing!)
Be careful how and where you use this one. While in Spain “palmar” means “to die”, in Argentina it is used as a synonym for paying your debts.
- Dejar plantado
If you have a date with somebody and you finally decide not to go, you are leaving him or her “plantado“. The English equivalent of this expression is ”to stand (somebody) up“.
To think about something over and over again, to obsess about something.
- Ponerse las pilas
To finally start working on something you have been postponing for a while, to “activate” yourself to do something really fast because you are running out of time.
- Ser un trozo de pan
Literally meaning “to be a piece of bread”, ser un trozo de pan is an idiomatic expression meaning to be a kind, generous and a good person.
- Estar chupado
If something “está chupado”, then it is really easy.
3. French slang words
Slang words and phrases are like the inside jokes of any foreign language you are trying to learn. Once you get them, belonging to that particular group gets easier. So… do you want to sound comme un natif (like a native)? Well then, French slang is the way to go!
- Caisse, bagnole or vago
All three of these are slang for “car” which is “voiture” in French.
- Pognon, tune, oseille or fric
The English language has a tone of slang words for “money”, but Franch catches up with these four.
- Bouffer, grailler or damer
Instead of “manger” which is “to eat” in English, you can say “bouffer”, “grailler” and also “damer” in some areas in France.
- Môme, gamin, mioche or drôle
Instead of “child” which is “enfant” in French, you can say “môme”, “gamin”, “mioche”, “drôle” (in the east of France) or “gosse” (but don’t use this last one in Québec because there it is a slang for “testicle”).
- Clope, garo or shmer (mostly east of France)
All three of them are slang for “cigarette”.
4. German slang words
Just as full of fun slang words as English, Spanish or French, German is rocking this top with just three slang words that I always hear during my trips to Berlin. Especially when I’m hanging out with younger people.
It literally translates to “coal” and it stands for money – especially if you are talking about not having much money.
Literally “sealed”. It can be used to say that someone is drunk.
Can be used either as a greeting towards a friend or a mater or as a way to express surprise or disbelief: Alter! Ist das euer Auto? (Man! Is that your car?).
5. Italian slang words
We already talked about 20 Italian expressions Italians love a while ago, so here are some of the most popular ones:
- Figo or fico
The very popular Italian version of “cool”.
Although in the dictionary it means “to peck”, its colloquial meaning is “to meet someone”. A che ora ci becchiamo?, for instance, means “what time do we meet?”.
- Un botto
Literally means “an explosion”, but in slang, it is used as a way to say “a lot” or “so much”. Mi piaci un botto! (I like you so much!).
“Frate” means “monk”, but it is also short for “fratello” (brother). So this one is the Italian equivalent of “bro”.
6. Portuguese slang words
Brazilians are probably of the most creative people when it comes to slang, so here are some of the most popular Brazilian Portuguese slang words:
- Animal or maneiro
Used to describe something really cool or awesome.
This is another word for “party”.
Another word for “bus”.
A really nice person, someone really cool.
7. Japanese slang words
- マジ (Maji)
Used the same way the English languages uses “no way!”, “really?” or “seriously?”.
- 超 (Cho)
Very. Used the same way young people all around the world speak to emphasize certain things: “for sure”, “totally”, “super”, etc.
This may be confusing, but Japanese people use ヤバい（Yabai) in both good and bad situations like “no way! it’s raining again” and “OMG! This cat is so cute!”.
- キモい (Kimoi)
Yuck or gross.
- ウケる (Ukeru)
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