Teenage Vocab for Dummies (i.e. Parents/Adults)

I spend a lot of time with teenagers, and one thing has become quite clear: most of the time I have no idea what they're saying. Even as I write, the "teenage vocab" I'm sharing with you is nearly ancient history because the times change, and words go in and out of style.

Not knowing the lingo can be a barrier of conversation, especially if you don't like what they say. However, if you find a way to appreciate their generational communication, it can be a great way to bond, and enjoy them more. They'll know you care, and roll their eyes when you try to use the new terminology in everyday life. Those eye rolls are just "I love yous".

teenager vocab

As I was driving my nieces around today, we started laughing at all of the crazy things they say that I don't get. So I was inspired to share my laughs with you and create a "Teenage Vocab for Dummies" so that moms and dads can get their teenage lingo down and slay the hipster chat with their IG feed on point with aesthetic pictures that will give their followers the feels and be totally bae. What-evs.

Let's Start with Basic Vocab:

Not every teenager speaks the lingo with ease. My son, for example, has no connection to most of these vocab words. The girls in his life, however, do, and the struggle is real.

  • bae - an abbreviation that means "before anything else" - which totally confused me because I thought it was a word, and didn't realize it stood for something! My nieces are telling me that it is both a word and an abbreviation. It's a word that represents something very important in your life - best friend, boyfriend, sister, dog, or Danish poop...because it also means that if you speak Danish. Yeah...I'm so clueless.
  • goals - if you really like something, or if you really wish you had something, you might say, "Your hair is goals." or "Her voice is goals."  If you get good at this, you'll be on fleek. Another closely related term is eyebrow game. Yeah, I don't get this one at all. Understanding teen vocab is #goals.

  • hashtags - Caution - hashtags are to be treated lightly. Overuse of the hashtag can be the death of you. Hashtags associate you with whatever you're hashtaging (that's a verb). *followed by rolling teenager's eyes + "goodness Auntie Betsy"
  • savage - a word that means "great" or "awesome" when something is said that is bluntly honest without care of the other person's feelings. Can be used for witty or sarcastic statements that are on point. Synonyms: beast, boss, or slay.
  • squada group of close friends is called a squad. The most legit squads have poses and they sort of just happen...that leads us to where they'll post all of their photos.
  • Oh....and the picture below is a meme - an image that carries a cultural truth....

teenager vocab


Teenagers are Social Media Bosses...or They're not.

Some teenagers have an innate ability to rock social media like nobody's business.  This can be good, but also dangerous. Here's some insight into their online world:

  • Abbreviations - We've got to start with abbreviations because if you don't know what they're talking about, you'll be lost before you even start.
    • SMH - Shake my head (yeah...I thought it meant "shave my head" and they looked at me like SMH Auntie Betsy SMH)
    • YK - You know?!
    • ROTFL - Rolling on the floor laughing
    • BTW - By the way
    • BRB - Be right back
  • InstagramThis is where teenagers live. Instagram is where you create your own aesthetic. You have to work your feed. This is the bigger picture of how all of your Instagram photos work together. You need a theme - a general color pallet. Natasha Fomina is a great example of an Instagrammer whose aesthetic is on point. 
  • Snap Chat - this is basically selfie texting...it's a short lived, goofy place for teens to play with filters and stickers. This could get real bad real quick. Oh wow. I just got an education, and let's say, I'll probably never make it on snap chat. I'm too old to appreciate the fullness of the humor here. *10 minute pause to convince me that snap chat is funny. They might have convinced me.

Snap chat sillies

  • Vines - these are 6 second videos that are crazy and funny. It's like the modern version of "America's Funniest Home Videos"

Teenage Phrases that are Legit

If you're around teens, you might hear some of these phrases. Caution: if you try to use these in a conversation, you'll get an, "Oh _______ (insert name here)" paired with an SMH and an eye roll.

  • "The feels"when something is high intensity emotional...
  • "Yasss"  - use this when a simple, "yes" is just not adequate
  • "The struggle is real" - when life isn't going your way...and silly annoying things happen, insert phrase here. Voicing the emotional battle, and putting it on the internet. Me understanding this terminology? #thestruggleisreal
  • "Meh"when you're not feeling something, when "no" is too much, when you're voicing your laziness...use meh.

Teenage Vocab for Dummies

I've had so much fun learning from teens what goes on in their world. It's important to connect with the teens in your life and learn about what they're interested in. Engage with the social media that they're active in (but don't over comment on their stuff...nothing like an unhip mom off fleek to kill the bae-ness of your feed).

If you engage with them in their world in a positive way, you'll be building bridges while you're keeping an eye out for unsavory characters. Your teen probably has lingo of their own, so sit down and ask them about their world. You might just have a little fun...and be less of a "dummy"!

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