An amazing thing happened last week. My husband and I ended up having a meal with my 18-year-old daughter and a few of her friends. Before they arrived, she did not even admonish us about how to behave, and other than getting a tad edgy that our dinner prep was a little behind schedule – of course they had plans after dinner – we had a truly pleasant evening catching up with her squad.
The best part of the evening was listening as the three girls chatted away, almost as if they were oblivious to our presence at the table. This gaggle of girls has grown up together, and after months away from each other at college, they had a lot to talk about. We love how much these teenagers enjoy being together.
You know what else these teenagers like? Knowing that we couldn’t understand most of what they were talking about. While they weren’t technically speaking another language, their conversation was infused with so much slang that they were smugly certain that they were safe. And they were right.
The world of teen slang is fascinating for its creativity and humor. But what teenagers like is that grownups don’t get it. That’s why I am particularly grateful to my daughter and her friends for being kind enough to loop me in.
If, like me, you’d appreciate a little insight into what’s being said right in front of you so that you don’t “get got,” here’s a small sampling of some great words.
10 Slang Expressions that Teenagers Like to Use
1. No cap/That’s cap
Teenagers have their own way to determine truth and these two expressions are part of the process. “No cap” asserts that the speaker is neither lying nor exaggerating while “That’s cap” is said in response when someone is skeptical about what they’ve been told.
Example: When you tell your friends about how you got an A on your test and didn’t study, they will call you out and say, “That’s cap.” Or when you tell about how you didn’t leave your room all weekend, you’d follow it up with “No cap” to emphasize that you’re not exaggerating.
2. Wanna link?
A casual way to ask a friend if they want to hang out (not to be confused with hooking up)
Example: I’m really hungry. Wanna link and get some food?
3. Spill the tea/sip tea
One of my favorites, a delightful synonym for gossip. The one who spills shares information and the one who sips listens.
Example: You need to spill the tea about what happened last night.
I have some tea for you to sip.
A perfect word for teenagers who are nothing if not filled with emotion, this expression means to be extremely moved in some way (either positive or negative).
Example: I am so shook! I just got a summer internship (positive). That movie was so scary that I am shook (negative).
Here’s one that makes me scratch my head. Teenagers are all about being trendy and that’s why it’s so important for them to wear certain brands or have certain gadgets. But basic means unoriginal, and it is an insult to those who seem too interested in what is popular. Closely related to VSCO girls (aka girls who post trendy selfies that are enhanced by the filters and tools on the VSCO app)
Example: Did you see how she was dressed wearing all the latest styles? She’s so basic.
6. Turnt up
One of those expressions that parents wish didn’t exist, this means to get extremely drunk or high.
Example: There were so many people who got turnt up at the party last night.
7. Low key/high key
For teenagers, it’s all about controlling information so something that is low key is meant to be kept secret while something becomes high key when several people find out about it. Low key/high key can also refer to how strongly you feel about something.
Example: I’m low key upset with my friend for not inviting me to the game, but I’m not going to say anything because I don’t want it to become a high key situation.
Having a low key crush on someone in my class vs. feeling high key in love
A combination of stalker and fan that speaks to the way we feel when we are obsessed with a celebrity. This word comes from the song “Stan” performed by Eminem. Originally, it had negative connotations, but now it has come to be a way to acknowledge the fact that you like someone or something a whole lot.
Example: When it comes to badass activists, I stan for Greta Thunberg.
Of course teenagers would have several ways to express that they are annoyed and frustrated with someone.
Example: All the work that teacher assigned has me bent.
With all this homework, I am pressed.
Apparently, OK Boomer was not enough so along came Karen, a scornful word that is the stuff of meme legend as it describes entitled, obnoxious middle-aged white women who tend to complain a lot.
Example: In this meme, Karen sets herself apart by being the one in the picture who is not enjoying herself and the caption alludes to her tendency to complain to the manager about everything.
If you’re worried that our teenagers are lacking in word skills or vocabulary, rest assured that they’re hard at work reimagining language in clever and creative ways that not only enhance the way they communicate with each other but exclude us boomers: just the way teenagers like it.