Knit’s Gen Z Slang Glossary
The question is: should you try and work this into your brand messaging, or just avoid it completely, the way every single corporate property without a registered dba of “Baby Phat” should have avoided the word “phat” (and even then…?) in 1999?
The answer is: yes. To both.
We wish there was something beyond this primer to offer you for guidance. Instead, we’ll give you some advice: when in doubt, just … don’t. There’s no reason to shoehorn slang in just to try and prove you’re hip and with it. That’s how YOLO critical mass happens. Gen Z are just a group of people. Readers. In fact, they’re the most well-educated generation yet. No need to cram a “sheesh” into every piece of forward-facing copy you produce just because you can.
/big • yīks/
Sometimes “yikes” is not enough to convey the shock or embarrassment you feel in an awkward situation. That’s where Big Yikes comes in. It’s bigger, badder, and bolder for a more powerful impact.
See also: Sheesh
Withdrawing public support from a prominent figure, brand, or organization in the wake of public scrutiny that takes the form of increased negative attention on social media, organized boycotts, and demands for accountability. Rarely used unironically by actual members of Gen Z.
Origin: Your Love is Cancelled, a song by 1981 disco band Chic.
Found something super hilarious? Don’t just send the laughing emojis. Say you’re “ded.” It means something was so funny, it made you laugh to the point of death. Don’t take it literally. It’s a fun way to convey that you thought a particular joke slapped.
Origin: From the ancient millennial 😂 or i’m SCREAMING
We all know that one person who is super dramatic, flamboyant, and out there. Gen Z calls such people “extra.” The word can also be used when someone is trying too hard or overreacting to something ordinary.
Example: omfg stop being so extra, McKenzie
Why say “I’m going to do something” when you can just say finna? It’s a shorter version of “fixing to” and used to convey intent.
Example: I don’t know what that smell is, but I’m finna take a shower.
GOAT stands for Greatest Of All Time and refers to something so amazing that it stands above everything else. For example, you can say your favorite song or artist is goat. Can also be used to describe famous people who are doing awe-inspiring things in their industry.
Iykyk know stands for “if you know, you know.” This is typically used to talk about a particular situation only a specific group of people can relate to. It’s sort of like an inside joke – you have to have been there to experience it and understand it.
Example: lol Aneesh’s party saturday iyky
Living rent-free in my head
/cut us a break, ok?/
Can’t stop thinking about the cool girl you met at the party? Staying up all night thinking about your next startup idea? Gen Z would say it’s living rent-free in your head. The phrase literally means something is stuck in your head taking up precious space in your brain.
/sendiNG • mē/
Want another way to say something is super funny, particularly for you? Say it’s sending you. X is sending me or X sends me is a way of saying you find something hilarious or exciting, even if it’s not that interesting for others.
Has your coworker been acting weird since you got the promotion they wanted? Gen Z would say they’re being salty. Salty can be used to describe jealous, irritated, or resentful behavior.
Sheesh is kinda like ‘whoa’ only it’s not. It’s hard to pin down the exact sentiment the word expresses as it’s used in versatile ways. Commonly used to convey extreme surprise or express cringe.
See also: yikes, big yikes
Have you wholeheartedly poured your time and attention into attracting your crush? Did you do anything your crush asked in the hopes of winning them over? Gen Z would say you’re simping on them. The term is typically used to describe men who would do anything for a woman (who probably doesn’t reciprocate the effort.) .
You know TFW when you listen to a song so amazing, it makes you get up and sway? That’s when Gen Z says it slaps! When something is exceptionally good or super relatable, you can say it slaps hard.
See also Living rent free in my head
You ever see an adorable little puppy on Instagram? It’s what Gen Z calls “smol.” Anything tiny and super cute is called smol to induce an aww.
Example: Rambo the pupper is so smol and rare.
Snacks are attractive and feel super good in the moment, so if you think someone looks really nice, Gen Z would tell you to call them a snack.
Example: Forget snack. You put me in a food coma!
This has nothing to do with Stan Lee (it could!). A crossover between stalker and a fan, Stan refers to an excessively enthusiastic or a “diehard” fan. It conveys you’re extremely devoted to a movie, song, actor, musician, or any fandom.
Example: Pssht you know Logan stans for Phil Collins
A shortened form of “suspicious”. If something doesn’t feel right or sounds unbelievable, you can say it’s sus. This could be used to describe a person acting differently or a spam email with scammy links.
Example: Ghost that mf he’s sus
/tee • ef ˈ• dəbəlˌyo͞o/
TFW means “the feeling when…” or “the face when…” and is usually followed by a relatable scenario or a joke. Want an example?
Example: Gucci’s TFW campaign where the brand used clever jokes with funny images (and their best judgement, remember?) to start a TFW trend to grab Gen Z’s attention.
Itching for more youth slang? Check out part 2 here. We’ll keep updating this glossary as we stumble across more Gen Z slang to define and possibly ruin. But honestly? Who needs a linguist when you have a fixer? We can give you direct access to Gen Z, and when we do, you probably will run into these words and more. No worries. We’ll be there to help you decipher it, understand it, and do something actionable with it.
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