New English learners may become confused when they encounter the use of slang, which is simply words or phrases that are informal and used in a playful or metaphorical manner. Slang is regional, generational, and ever-changing, which makes it even more confusing! The best way to navigate slang is simply not to use it until and unless you know exactly what the various meanings and connotations are, and to ask someone you trust to explain the use of a word or term you don’t understand. Let us try to help you out with this list of 12 American slang words that are currently in use in the US.
Bae: this is short for “babe” or “baby” and means your partner, girlfriend, boyfriend, significant other, or loved one. It is frequently used in hip-hop music as a term of endearment.
Facepalm means to bring your palm to your face (either literally or metaphorically) to express that you feel ashamed, exasperated, or you cannot believe what you see or hear. A close relation to this word is headdesk, which implies that you feel such intense frustration or exasperation that you want to bang your head on your desk, repeatedly.
Snatched: This is a newish slang word that seems to replace the previous “on fleek” and means that something looks really good or positive. “Take a selfie, you’re snatched” means to take a photo of yourself because you look really good right now.
Ship (or shipping): Nothing to do with boats, this word is a shortening of “relationship” and turns it into a verb. To ship someone means to wish you were in a relationship with them, as in “I ship Ryan Gosling;” to ship two other people (commonly TV or movie characters) implies that you want the two of them to have a relationship with one another or that you are a fan of their existing and ongoing relationship. “I totally shipped Ross and Rachel on Friends,” would be a good example of this usage.
Dime: A dime is the colloquial name for a ten-cent coin in the US and Canada, and this slang word means that someone or something is a perfect ten, a 10 out of 10 –the best of the best, as good as can be. (Note that it can also be short for dime bag, meaning a small amount of marijuana.)
Peep: This word has two meanings. The first is to refer to a friend or member of your group of friends and loved ones – it’s short for “people” in this context, and is often plural, as in “these are my peeps.” The second meaning is to check out or get a look at something or someone, as in “have you peeped her new shoes?”
Lit: This is short for “lit up” and means something is exciting or happening as in “this party is totally lit.” (It can also be slang for being intoxicated, but there are approximately a thousand slang words for intoxication by either alcohol or drugs, so it can be hard to tell which usage is being employed.)
On point: This term implies that something is perfectly done or exactly right. It often refers to clothing or style; for example, you might say “Her outfit is on point.”
Slay: To slay is actually a positive thing, although it is derived from the word slaughter, which means to kill. If something slays, it means that it is really, really good, so good in fact that it might be deadly. This is just the latest in a long line of words that actually mean to kill or die being transformed into positive words, for example “The band killed it up on stage tonight” or “I am dying of laughter.”
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Chill and zero chill: Chill is definitely something you want to have. It means the ability to stay relaxed, to be calm and rational and not respond to something with too much enthusiasm. If someone is said to have zero chill, it means that he or she is overly excitable or gets too invested in something and is annoying for that reason. Chill can also be used as a verb meaning to do nothing or hang around being lazy.
These are just a few of the many American slang words popularized by their use on the internet, particularly on social media. There are also numerous acronyms and initialisms that are short forms for phrases, such as LOL (Laugh out Loud), IDK (I Don’t Know), TBH (To Be Honest) and so forth. New terms are always coming into use and old ones falling out of fashion, but what you hear and see depends on where you live, your age, who you talk to, and what media you consume. Your Skype English teacher is a great resource for definitions and assistance comprehending and using slang, so feel free to ask them!
Want to learn more American slang words? Try these popular American TV shows to increase your knowledge of real American Spoken English.