If you’re in your 40s, 50s, or beyond, you’d be forgiven for not knowing what on earth “spilling the tea,” “clap back,” or “fleek” means. (That goes especially for the latter, since no one seems to know what “fleek” means.) However, if you want to talk to millennials on their own terms—and to truly decipher what it is they’re saying—it would behoove you to learn. That’s why we put together this definitive list of millennial terminology that every person should know. So read on, take notes, and try to use them all in a sentence. (Don’t have time? Well, then I guess #thestruggleisreal.) And if you’re a millennial, it’s your turn to bone up on the words only your elders use.
“Netflix and chill.”
It’s the more polite way of saying “Let’s turn on this movie we have no intention of watching and then fool around on the couch.” Speaking of: if you’re looking a classic way of courting someone, don’t miss these 23 Old-Fashioned Etiquette Rules That Still Apply.
“Sorry not sorry”
It’s when you want to make it crystal clear to somebody exactly how un-remorseful you really are about something. And for more great trivia, here are the 30 Words That Will Make You Sound Instantly Smarter.
“Sipping” or “Spilling the tea”
It started with a meme of Kermit the Frog sipping tea, which included the caption, “But that’s none of my business.” It basically means pretending not to notice when something crazy or salacious is happening. When you’re spilling the tea, that usually signifies that gossip is being shared, and therefore the tea is a little more difficult to swallow.
You may notice the lack of “up” following this word. If we know nothing else about millennials, it’s that they’re far too busy for modifiers. In this context, it’s not even just about being awake. It’s about suddenly springing to life, either out of alarm or determination. You’re woke, so now things are, you know, real.
It means you’re in the wrong lane—metaphorically speaking. When somebody requests that you “swerve,” they’re saying, “You’re not welcome here. Get lost, leave us alone, swerve!”
It sounds like a word only George Takei could pull off, but it’s become a favorite among millennials. It means being in a bad or grumpy mood.
“The struggle is real”
Spoiler alert: if someone says this to you, you’re being made fun of. They’re saying that the thing you’re taking so seriously, that you consider such an egregious tragedy, might not be as bad as you think. The struggle is, in fact, not real, and you should learn to recognize sarcasm.
Older millennials got tired of being called millennials, so they invented a new name for themselves. If you were born between 1977 and 1983 and don’t feel like you belong in either Generation X or millennials, you’re an xennial. File this one under “nobody cares, please stop inventing new words for stupid things.” Oh, and speaking of newly created words, here are 10 Things “Polyamorous” People Want You to Know about Their Relationships.
You’re craving something, and it’s not a tasty beverage. It could be anything from more Instagram followers or that woman you just spotted across the club. Can also be used in a self-deprecating manner; if you want it so much that you’re thirsty, it might be time to calm down.
They don’t live under a bridge and they won’t ask you to answer these riddles three before passing. They’re just jerks who say nasty things to strangers online.
It’s not an insult necessarily, just a suggestion that your personality and opinions and physical attributes are particularly standard and middle-of-the-road. It’s like saying, “Oh, you have basic cable. That’s…. Okay, I guess.” Okay fine, it’s a total insult. And for more on millennial behavior, read about why The Pasta Selfie Is Here and Carbs Never Looked So Chic.
It’s a shorthand for “Whatever we are discussing includes things I’ve like to achieve or possess in my life.” It could be a sweet new tech gadget, or a beautiful woman you’d love to see on your arm. The AF (an acronym means “as [F-word]”) just supplies emphasis.
It’s the one you love “before anyone else.” This word likely started as an attempt to say “baby” or “babe” but then they realized mid-way through the word that they just didn’t have the energy for that last vowell.
It’s when you have to leave someplace quickly. “I gotta bounce.”
Just another way of saying something is “on point.” (Note: nobody has any idea what “fleek” actually means. Go figure.)
Short for retweet, a reference to sharing someone else’s tweet on Twitter. In other words, it’s shorthand for “I don’t have the time or energy to come up with an original thought, so here’s what somebody else said.” Or, simply: “ditto.”
When you get dissed and you’re not just going to sit there and stew in your own juices, you return the favor with a clap back. Get it? You “clap” them back. (Okay fine, we don’t understand either.)
“Fire” (as an adjective)
“Those throw-back Jordans are fire.” No, not on fire. Not fired up. Just simply, fire.
Shorthand for “like back” or “follow back.” It refers to the moment when someone liked or followed you on social media and you returned the favor by hitting the same button on your own screen.
You know a word is good when it’s borrowed from drag queens. Calling somebody “hunty” is announcing that you’re well aware of their shenanigans, just in case they think they’re pulling a fast one on you. “Nice try, Hunty.”
It means hotter than hot. And if there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that quiches are sexy. Wait, what? Okay, maybe not. But maybe that’s why this millennial slang works. It’s like saying, “She’s so hot, she’s like my grandma’s slippers,” or “Her bikini photos are like a kale smoothie.” It works because it really, really doesn’t.
Someone is acting shady or suspicious, and you want to say as much, but then you remember how millennials feel about vowels, and suspicious has like thirteen vowels or something, so you just say “sus” and hope whoever you’re talking/texting/or tweeting to can fill in the blanks.
When it’s all gone to hell—your hair, your clothes, your job, your life—then you’re ratchet. The word was created to describe a woman who can’t keep it together, but it’s evolved to embody pretty much anybody whose personal or professional life has gone off the rails.
When you encounter a ratchet person who’s hoping for a romantic connection, it’s time to cancel. It’s a less abrasive way of saying, no, this isn’t going to happen.
“I can’t even”
You can’t even what? It doesn’t matter. It could be something specific, it could be reality in general. The point is, the world has gone insane, and we can’t even.
The “fear of missing out” is so last generation. Millennials have upgraded to the next next best emotion, the joy of missing out, or JOMO.
That’s all you need to say. Not “I’m dead.” Just “dead.” You friends will know what you mean (at least if they’re millennials.) It’s how they express having seen or read something that’s so good or funny, it’s awesomeness has (figuratively) killed them with joy.
Something is especially awesome. Like: “This party is lit!”
It’s how millennials poke fun at America’s seemingly endless capacity for self-love. When people get too excited about fireworks and firearms and monster trucks, that’s ‘Merica.
“Break the Internet”
The Kardashians sucked some of the joy out of this phrase, but it is still possible to break the Internet by sharing something legitimately amazing. With so much noise online, creating something that causes a genuine buzz and actually dominates the global conversation, when you’re not a Kardashian or a Trump, is nothing short of a miracle.
When you want to share how fantastic your life is but you don’t want to be that guy who brags that his life is fantastic, that’s when a humble brag comes into play. Just a dose of modesty or even self-deprecation, so it seems like your intent wasn’t to gloat (even though it obviously was). Example: “I have so much packing to do before my flight to Paris. UGH, my life right now is so complicated!”
“Turn Up, Turnt Up, Turned Up”
Yet another way to say “I’m having fun at this party” without having to resort to saying “I’m having fun at this party.”
If someone is leaving and you really don’t care, you dismiss them with “Bye, Felicia.” It’s a diss that really only works if the person you’re trying to insult isn’t named Felicia. If she is, well, then you’ve been accidentally polite. Whoops!
“Pics or it didn’t happen”
A form of sarcasm that evolved out of an actual necessity. People tend to lie on social media. Well, they lie everywhere, but especially on the Internet, where everybody seems to crave attention from strangers, and they’ll write just about anything to get it. It’s hard to trust anybody anymore, so demanding “pics or it didn’t happen” isn’t so much a request for photographic evidence. It’s just saying, “Based on my experience on the Internet, I’m biased against believing you.”
When you want to say you’re getting the “eff outta here,” but are too polite to put it in so many words, the millennial acronym FOH does the job for you.
“Said no one ever”
Four words that can negate just about any statement, with just the right amount of sneering sarcasm. “I sure love family picnics…. said no one ever.”
Exclamation points are so needy. If you really want to express how something you’ve just said IS SO TOTALLY TRUE, just end it with the quantifier “because duh.” It works every time. “I would absolutely spend the weekend in a hottub with Scarlett Johansson, because duh.”
Not in the knight and dragon sense; you’re not slaying any fire-breathing beasts to save a princess. To “slay” in the millennial sense means to do an exemplary job.
When just saying “yes” isn’t enough. “Yes” is just a calm agreement or an affirmative response, but “YAAAAAS” suggests a frenzied intensity that really drives the point home.
All the boring crap that grownups do. If you’re slogging to work and paying your mortgage and cooking your dinners and ironing your own clothes, you’re in the adulting world now. It sucks sometimes, but it’s a reality for all big boys and girls. Yes, even millennials.