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Understanding the Gen Z Vocabulary

Dr. James Emery White | Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary | Thursday, August 23, 2018

Understanding the Gen Z Vocabulary

First, I want you to know it’s totally lit to be writing this. Hope nothing that follows feels cringey. Sometimes I can get a little extra. And when we’re not F2F, it’s hard to tell. I’m just hoping it reads fleeky. But trust me, what follows is high-key. TBH, I just hope you don’t throw any shade my way but, instead, will read and wig.

Need a dictionary or, better yet, a translator? You’re not alone. Learning to “talk teen” is a constantly moving target, to be updated (at least) annually. Throw in the increasing use of gifs and memes instead of words, and the challenge only grows.

So here’s a cheat sheet of the latest teen slang and acronyms:

Beef = a disagreement or hostility

BRB = be right back

Bruh = another way of saying "bro" or "brother"

Canceled = done, deleted, finished, blocked on social media

Clout Chaser = someone who tries to latch on to other, more popular people

Clout Demon = a wannabe

Cringey = awkward, uncomfortable, cringe-worthy

Curve = reject someone’s advances

Dead A— = to be completely and honestly serious

Dead = overwhelmed or exhausted

Dime = rating of attractiveness, 10/10

Down in the DM = direct messaging someone privately, usually to hook up

Drip/Drippin = flashy, ostentatious

Extra = over the top

F2F = face to face, meeting in person

Fam = the friends you are closest with

Finna = going to/about to, short for “fixing to”

Finsta = a fake Instagram account

Fleeky = amazing or great

Glow-up = an incredible transformation

Goals = a lifestyle to strive for

GOAT = greatest of all time, mainly used in sports

Gucci = good, cool

High-key = a lot, wanting everyone to know something

Hit a lick = to steal something

Hundo P = 100 percent, confirming something

It’s lit = cool, awesome, great

I’m weak = something so funny it made you weak

Juice = credibility, respect, can also mean booze or drugs

Juul = a popular brand of vaporizer used by teens

Kickback = a casual get-together

KMS/KYS = kill myself, kill yourself, used sarcastically

Lean = an intoxicating drink made using soda and cough syrup

Meme = a joke or reference to something

OP = out of pocket, used when something is extreme or offensive

Pods = disposable cartridge for a nicotine vaporizer

Ratchet = loud, obnoxious, trashy

Saucy = feisty or sassy

Savage = wild or harsh

Shade = trash talk

Shook = shocked, upset

Sips tea = minding your own business

Smash = to hook up, have sex

Squad = your closest group of friends

Stan = have an intense fandom for a particular object, such as a singer, athlete or company

Straight fire = popular, trendy or awesome

Sus = short for suspect, when something is suspicious or sketchy

TBH = to be honest

Tea = gossip

Thicc = voluptuous, curvy body (usually a compliment)

Thirsty = wants attention, usually from a specific person

Throw shade = talking badly about a person or thing

Tweaking = high, usually on amphetamines

V = very

Wig = when something crazy or unexpected (good) happens

Woke = enlightened about social issues, originally to describe being aware about racism and police violence

I know.  This blog was the GOAT.

James Emery White


Jennifer Jolly, “‘It’s lit’: The Ultimate Guide to Decoding Your Teen’s Text and Speak,” USA Today, August 10, 2018, read online.

About the Author

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter and Instagram @JamesEmeryWhite.

Understanding the Gen Z Vocabulary