Teen lingo in the 21st century: cheatsheet for parents to decipher WTH kids are saying…

Teenagers are pretty hard to work out, and it seems their language and abbreviations are even harder. If you want to be a 'lit' parent, you're going to need this guide...

Every era has its slang. From the iconic “As if!” (courtesy of coming-of-age fave, Clueless) and “Oh, snap!” to “Totally…” and “Yada, yada, yada!” (thanks, Seinfeld), these terms are sure to take us back to our youth. But we’re in the 21st century now and new slang has taken over. What’s more, it’s zipping through the airwaves and across the internet at breakneck speed, changing with every meme that falls into and out of fashion. We asked our interns (who are certified teens) to give us a clue into what lingo the kids are using these days at their youth hangouts in Singapore and on social media apps. Study this list carefully, parents! There’s a lot to decipher and it’s only going to be relevant for another couple of years tops…


Gucci: (adj) Something is good, or cool.

Lowkey: (adv) Secretly or discretely; in a subtle fashion eg “I’m so tired- I’m lowkey falling asleep rn.”

Highkey: (adv) See ‘lowkey’ (antonym): to do something in a really obvious way.

Salty: (adj) The state of acting petty, or upset – usually as an act of retaliation.

Lit: (adj) Something is cool.

Awks: (adj) Awkward.

Shade: (noun) A diss/light insult behind someone’s back; supposedly in an off-handed, joking manner but with intent to hurt, eg “My teacher just threw shade at me for not passing the test – ouch.”

Beef: (noun) When two or more people have a disagreement or fall out, eg “I heard you and Finn were arguing – is there beef between the two of you?”

Snake: (noun) A traitor; someone who’s not trustworthy, eg “Did you see what Taylor tweeted about her best friend yesterday? What a snake.”

Thirsty: (adj) Desperate; including, but not limited to, a symptom of chasing after your celebrity crush. Nothing to do with re-hydrating…

teen lingo uncovered FAM

The teen version of ‘fam’! Photography: Raw Pixel via Unsplash

Fam: (noun) Short for family; commonly used to refer to your close friends/inner circle.

Illuminati: (noun) An ancient, conspiratorial, secret organisation composed of the most influential celebrities (e.g. Kanye West, Beyoncé), characterised by the symbol of a triangle with an eye in the centre.

Shook: (adj) Surprised; sometimes changed to ‘shooketh’ as to add emphasis, eg “I can’t believe I got an B+ and actually passed my Physics exam… I’m shook.”

Savage: (adj) Someone/something that is bada*s or ruthless.

Burn: (noun) an insult, also see ‘Roast’.

Dip: (verb) To leave. “I’m dipping out and heading home.”

Finna: (misc) ‘Fixing to’; equivalent to going to, eg “Man, I’m so hungry – I’m finna grab a donut on my way home.”  

Yeet: (misc) an expression for excitement; or used as an exclamation of anticipation when throwing something. Sometimes preceded by a ‘yah’ for dramatic flair, eg “Alright, let’s see if I can make this three-pointer, yah yeeeeeeeet!”

Extra: (adj) Over-the-top, in an unnecessary way, eg “Yo, her outfit was so extra… Can you believe she wore a feather boa?”

Clout: (noun) Characterised by possession of fame, power, influence, money, respect, style, etc. , eg “Did you see her post about her Gucci sliders? She obviously did that ‘cuz she wants clout.”

Deada*s: (adj) equivalent to ‘seriously’, or ‘for real’, eg “Help me with my maths homework, please – I’m deada*s confused.”

I can’t even: (phrase) used to demonstrate a lack of response at something overwhelming that you can’t deal with. “Max just texted me back! OMG: I can’t even.”



Text talk has its own set of rules and lingo. Photography: Paul Hanaoka via Unsplash

TTYL: Talk To You Later

IKR: I Know Right

IRL: In Real Life

ID(E)K: I Don’t (Even) Know

CBA: Can’t Be A*sed = I can’t be bothered.

LMAO: Laugh My A*s Off

GTG: Got to Go

BRB: Be Right Back

TBH: To Be Honest

NGL: Not gonna lie

HMU: Hit Me Up

Rn: Right Now

TFW: That Feeling When

WYD: What You Doing

WUU2: What You Up To

Nm: Not Much

GOAT: Greatest Of All Time

OTP: One True Pair = used to ‘ship’ or pair two individuals together who would be a perfect match, eg Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

SMH: Shaking My Head = usually used to express lack of words when someone does something stupid.

NVM: Never mind

ILY(SM): I Love You (So Much)

Top image: Julie Johnson vis Unsplash

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