Learn To Speak Tween: 20 Words Kids Are Using And What They Mean

Every generation has its own slang -- words, and phrases that reflect the current youth culture. Some of that language disappears as quickly as it appears and in some instances, it evolves over time and turns into common words or phrases.

For example, in the 1950’s, if you found something hilarious you would have said it gave you “the big tickle.” It's not something you would hear said today, but we use the 1950’s youth culture term “no sweat” to mean “no problem.” So, our tweens and teens are just doing exactly what we, and the many generations before us, did when we were their age. However, knowing that this is typical teen behavior is one thing, knowing what your tweens and teens are talking about when they have a barricade of slang to hide behind, is another.

You do not have to drop any of these words or phrases into your conversations, messages or texts with your young adult. In fact, I would recommend against it because it would make you look like a sad old parent trying to be trendy. Although, it can be fun to watch your tween squirm when you talk about someone being "woke".

Instead, use this guide to keep yourself informed, so you know what is going on when your child is chatting, either in person or online. Being aware in this way can help you keep an eye out, or perhaps that should be an ear out, for any signs of trouble or problems in which you might need to intervene.

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20 Lit

Via: Everfest

Lit has two distinctly different definitions. You will be able to tell which interpretation is appropriate by the context in which the word is used.

If somebody is said to be lit or intending to become lit, it means they are or are planning to be, just drunk or drugged enough to be mildly intoxicated. The person who is “lit” is in their sweet spot between being intoxicated enough to be relaxed but not so far gone their abilities are impaired.

Example: “I’m planning to get lit tonight at the party.”

On the other hand, if a something is referred to as “lit,” it means it is fantastic, in a fresh, up to date, current way.

Example: “That party last night was lit, were you there?”

19 Woke

To be woke is to be the opposite of ignorant but not in a general way. Someone who is woke is aware of the current social and political climates and environments regarding all demographics and socio-economic standings.

Example: “There is so much homelessness in our community, if you don’t see it, you need to get woke.”

Its use began to describe being aware of racism and police violence and then came to mean being informed and knowledgeable of a broader range of issues.

It is now evolving to be a more disparaging term used to poke fun at people who see

Example: "She is so woke, she sees racism and gender bias in everything.”

18 Shade

Via: The Fader

To throw shade on someone is to put someone else down, usually with an unsophisticated, throw away, casual, yet cutting comment. When you throw shade online, it is often in the form of sharing memes or gifs.

Example: "People have been throwing shade at United Airlines with a ton of memes."

It is not necessarily something laden with spite but is usually sarcastic, or a passive-aggressive comment where the insult is between the lines.

Also, excellent shade can be thrown with a carefully executed side-eye.

Example: “Are you going to eat all of that?”

17 Fam

Via: Allure

If you hear your tween referring to their fam or a fam, they are not talking about their literal family, a family member, or someone to whom they are related.

Your child's fam is your child's broader group of friends. The ones they hang out with on a regular basis.

Example: “I’m going out to the mall and I’ll meet my fam there.”

On occasion, it will be used in the singular, instead of “friend.” So if you hear your tween refer to someone you approve of as a fam, that’s a good thing. If it is a kid, you don’t want them hanging out with, not so much.

Example: “Hey, what’s up fam?”

16 Squad

Via: NY Daily News

As well as their fam, you might hear your kiddo talking about their squad. This is their closest group of friends, their most trusted inner circle.

An issue with a fam might be upsetting for your child, but if it is with a member of their squad, it will be far more so. Try to remember just how it felt when you and one of your best mates fell out that is the kind of friendship they have with their squad.

Example: “I don’t want her to come to the sleepover, she’s not part of my squad.”

15 Goals

Via: Pinterest

The meaning of Goals is almost what you would normally believe it to be, except that in Tween speak it is usually used as an adjective instead of a noun.

This takes many forms but is usually something like:

Girl One: “Oh they look so cute together.”

Girl Two: “I know, right?”

Girl One: “That is so goals.”

Or you see it a lot on platforms like Instagram where somebody will see something they admire or aspire to and comments “GOALS” or “That is so Goals, I love it.”

14 Sip Tea

To sip tea is to pretend not to notice when something is going on. It began with a meme that showed Kermit the Frog sipping a cup of tea with the caption, “But that’s none of my business.” It usually refers to something particularly salacious.

Example: “I can’t believe you sat there sipping tea while she was saying all of those things to me.”

If someone is Spilling The Tea, they are sharing gossip, and not just any gossip either. Spilling the tea is reserved for the juiciest snippets of scandal.

Example: “Quick, get over here, the squad is spilling tea.”

13 Boots

Possibly the most difficult to understand usage of a word on the list, mainly because it makes no sense at all and nobody seems to know where, when, or how it started.

Boots is placed at the end of a sentence in order to add emphasis. It is like a verbal explanation mark. You couldn’t say “explanation mark” when you’ve made a point, that would sound ridiculous, so instead you add the word “Boots.”

Example: If you were especially hungry, you might say “I’m hungry boots.”

If there is one word here you should never try to use in an effort to connect with your kiddo; it’s this one. Even saying it in your head will make you embarrassing.

12 Turnt

Via: Topic

Turnt has two --quite similar, but distinct-- uses, the first being to describe somebody who is so overly excited they are unbearable or out of control.

Example: “Lisa is so Turnt about the concert I can’t even bear to be in the same room as her, it’s exhausting.”

It can also be used to mean somebody who is over excitable and out of control because they are heavily under the influence of something.

Example: “ I heard David was so turnt that he threw up in the bushes, then fell asleep.”

11 Clap Back

A clapback is a quick, witty comeback delivered at the perfect moment, the final word that leaves the other person speechless and steaming, the ideal winning zinger at the end of an argument.

A clapback is the kind of super smart thing you usually think to say hours later when you are stewing about something someone said or did, but on this occasion, you thought of it on the spot and lay it on the other person with smooth, seamless ease.

Example: “Nadia thought she was so clever picking that fight with me. She wasn’t expecting that clapback though.”

10 Salty

Via: Improvised Life

Salty is an angry bitterness, usually displayed by a person and directed at someone else. Also applies, to a lesser degree if someone is annoyed, or peeved about something.

Example: “Sophie walked straight past me without a word, like I wasn’t even there. I am salty AF.” Sidenote AF is another slang term and can be placed at the end of any sentence to indicate the intensity of the situation.

Reddit user HireALLTheThings says it is often used to describe somebody who is unjustly bitter about a personal matter (the term appears to have arisen in the fighting game community, where "salty" was used to describe players who were bitter over a loss and would act unsportsmanlike in defeat) and sometimes tries to garner support (usually unsuccessfully) through self-pity or vocal frustration.

9 Savage

Via: videosthatsuck.com

To be savage is to do something without caring about the consequences, although not in an arrogant way. For example, if your teen's friend executed a fantastic jump while urban running, either the jump or the friend might be referred to as savage.

It is especially appropriate if you do something wild, dangerous or difficult but make it look smooth and effortless.

It also applies to laying the ultimate insult on someone or behaving in such a way you cut someone down, but in public.

Example: “Rose broke up with her boyfriend. She tore him down while we all watched. It was savage!”

8 Hundo P

Via: Pinterest

One of those absolutely fabulous phrases that evolve when things are abbreviated, but the abbreviation ends up actually being longer than the original. In which case, now I think of it, it’s not an abbreviation at all, but I only have a short space to explain this so we’ll ignore that point and move on.

Hundo P is short(ish) for 100% and means that something is fantastic, maybe even awesome sauce. Side note - "awesome sauce" is something beyond awesome, literally awesome with sauce on top to make it even better.

Like many other phrases, Hundo P is used to place additional emphasis, rather like the “totally” of this generation.


Via: Pinterest

This has nothing to do with four-legged furry creatures that love to climb or hilariously go stiff and fall over as a defense mechanism when startled, “Greatest Of All Time” GOAT is an acronym given to something or someone that is the best of the best.

LL Cool J's eighth album was rather loftily titled G.O.A.T (Greatest of All Time), and the title is something to which we should all aspire, apparently.

In fact, we should all aspire to be the GOAT at what we do, and it is a much more linguistically powerful phrase than calling someone "fierce".

6 Bye Felicia

This is an important one to listen out for whether your teen or tween is delivering it, or on the receiving end.

To say “Bye Felicia” is to dismiss someone who you feel is unimportant, the ultimate “I don’t care where you go or what you do.” Saying this to another teen is seen as a brutal rejection so if your child is the one saying it you might want to have a word with them about how they are treating people. If your child is hearing it, then you might want to talk to them about how they are doing and if they are having issues with friends.

5 Hunty

Via Plugged In

An amalgamation of honey and a derogatory term, Hunty is a multipurpose word used primarily within the drag queen community when you want to be demeaning without being overly aggressive. Think of the way the word bitch is used, now give it a little camp flair, and a finger snap, and there you have Hunty.

It is sometimes used as an endearing term for a close friend, but this would only be acceptable in those kinds of friendship where you can call each other offensive names as terms of endearment.

Example: "Girl, you so hunty in that dress."

Using Hunty on someone is also like saying you know exactly what they are up to. For example, if a friend were trying to hide the fact they were misbehaving, you would call them out and say “Nice try, Hunty.”

4 Extra

Extra might typically mean something along the lines of “a bit more than was needed” but your tween or teen is likely to be using it slightly differently. Extra is the level above “way over the top” It can be used for that irritating someone who tries too hard and is defined on Urban Dictionary as "Doing the absolute [...] most. For no reason." Imagine that annoying friend who insists on throwing an elaborate party when a casual get-together would be equally as fine.

However, it is not always a bad thing, and it has evolved to mean the personification of melodrama, glamour, or showiness, The friend that dresses like they are attending the Oscars, even if they are going to the store - they are extra, but endearingly.

3 Draking

You know those times when you were a teenager when you locked yourself in your room and listened to sad music and cried for hours on end? You didn’t know it at the time, but you were Draking. It’s no surprise to hear that this comes from the name of Drake, the Canadian rapper, and the feelings induced by his music.

Draking can also refer to being inappropriate, overly emotional or actions that are taken when in the grips of overwhelming emotions.

Example: “I can’t believe I sent that sappy text, I must have been Draking.”

2 Basic

Via: Pinterest

Dull, unoriginal, cookie-cutter things are Basic. Another term that has a clear root in the traditional sense of the word but has been adapted to have a slightly more current use.

Often used between and about girls and young women, to tell someone she is Basic is to say that she is predictable and unoriginal, with no individuality.

Example: “Why do you even bother having posting to Instagram? You’re so Basic; nobody is interested in what you have to share.”

It can also be applied to pretty much anything, brands, bands, events, and issues, could all be considered Basic by some people.

1 Snatched

Via: Pinterest

This is a newer term than “On Fleek” which means the same thing and you might still hear in use, but On Fleek is considered overused and is consequently on its way out. Synonymous with slaying, to describe anything as Snatched is to say it looks great or awesome.

Example: “Wow girl, your hair is snatched.”

Snatched can also mean that you are so overly hyped up about something that you snatched your own wig right off of your own head.

Example: “I cannot believe he asked me to go out with him. I’m snatched.”

References: The authors own household of teens & tweens and their friends, sfgate.com, gurl.com, urbandictionary.com, and Reddit.

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