A to Gen Z: 10 Words to Help You Decode Your Teen

Kids and teens speak their own language. That’s always been true. But when you add today’s tech to the ever-changing nature of teen talk, it can feel like they’re speaking a foreign language. So what’s a parent to do?

Internet linguist Gretchen McCulloch suggests asking your teen for a language lesson to get caught up on the latest trends in slang words and emoji-use. She says be patient with what can look and sound like the improper use of the language.

“They’re doing something that’s very different from English class, but it’s really clever, it’s very sophisticated and it’s effective for communication,” McCulloch said.

To help you get started, we put together a list of ten common teen slang words you should know in 2018 with help from a panel of teens, tweens, and the people behind the Oxford English Dictionary.

1. LIT

In decades past, “lit” meant “mildly intoxicated.” Now, it’s used to describe something exciting. Ex: The party last night was lit.


The Italian luxury-brand may be the first thing that comes to mind for many people, but “gucci” is now a frequent substitute for the words, “good,” “cool,” and, “popular.” Ex: Are you still angry with me? No, we’re gucci.


“Finsta” is a made-up word that combines “fake” and “Instagram.” Some Instagram users hope to gain as many followers as possible on their public-facing accounts, but maintain a private Finsta account to post rants and pictures to a smaller number of approved followers. Your kids may have an account you know about and an account they only share with friends.


“Fire” can refer to objects that are amazing. Although both “lit” and “fire” refer to things that are cool, be careful – they are not interchangeable. Even the teens we talked to had trouble defining the fine line between the two, but essentially we learned they reserve “lit” for people and places, and “fire” for things. Ex: Those kicks you’re wearing are straight fire.


Puberty is a rough time for everyone, but today’s teens have coined a term for that shocking moment someone suddenly blossoms into young adulthood. These days, instead of “growing up,” you can “glow up.”


Teens are getting straight to the point when expressing shock and surprise these days, and use “shook” to encapsulate that feeling. Ex: That picture on their Finsta had me shook!


Sports fans know the acronym G.O.A.T. has long stood for Greatest of All Time, but kids these days just say, “goat” to refer to anything they deem worthy of the title. (Yes, like the animal.) Ex: You may have an opinion as to whether Tom Brady is or is not the GOAT.

8. TEA

Far from referring to the beverage, this kind of “tea” is hot gossip, and in order for someone to “sip the tea,” someone else has to “spill the tea.”


Like “tea,” this “snack” has nothing to do with actual food. In 2018, kids and adults in-the-know use “snack” to refer to an attractive person.

10. YEET

Slang words often evolve from existing words, but “yeet” is an exception. The exclamation owes its popularity to several viral videos on the now-defunct Vine and is commonly shouted when throwing something, or to express happiness.

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