Understanding Gen Z Vocabulary

Understanding Gen Z Vocabulary

Draven Jackson
Blogger | Teacher

For anyone who spends a lot of time around preteens and teenagers – or is an avid lover of TikTok and Instagram (like me) – sometimes it can feel like you’re listening to a whole new language when you’re communicating with the younger generations. Gen Z vocabulary and slang is a constantly evolving, constantly shifting language that you have to always be aware of in order to understand the conversations around you. But don’t feel too bad if you’re a little lost on what your child is saying at times – even as someone in their mid-twenties, I barely know what people are saying on my Twitter “For You” feed.

And that’s okay – since language is fluid, popular slang is constantly changing and it’s almost impossible to keep track of everything. But if you’re someone who wants to be able to know what their preteen is saying when they explain that they are “soft-launching” a new boyfriend, or if they send “iykyk” every other message, then this article is for you! I hope it will give you a better chance of keeping track of what your teenagers are telling you.

1. Rizz
What it means: Used for someone that is good at attracting others; ability to charm someone; short for “charisma”/”romantic charisma”; another word for “game.”
How to use it: “Mark found a date for prom without even trying – his rizz is amazing.”
2. Fam

What it means: Abbreviation for “family,” but can be used for people outside of your relatives. Commonly used with friends, similar to “bro” or “dude.”
How to use it: “Hey, fam, how’s it going?”


What it means: Acronym for “fear of missing out.” Used when you’re worried about missing out on an experience or being left out.
How to use it: “I bought tickets to the music festival even though I don’t really like the groups. All my friends are going and the FOMO was too much to ignore.”

4. Glow-Up

Understanding Gen Z VocabularyWhat it means: A noticeable improvement in your appearance, confidence, or personal style. Usually used for someone that went through puberty and is now more attractive.
How to use it: “If you saw her middle school pictures, you wouldn’t even recognize her – the glow-up was insane!”

5. Living Rent-Free

What it means: Something that you are constantly thinking about and takes up most of your mental energy.
How to use it: “K-pop lives rent-free in my head. Not a day goes by where I don’t think about my favorite group.”


What it means: Acronym for “If you know, you know.” Mainly used for inside jokes or niche topics. It is a popular hashtag online.
How to use it: “I go to Starbucks at least once a week during September or October. #IYKYK.”
(Side note to understand in case you don’t know: September and October are when the Pumpkin Spice Latte is available at Starbucks).

7. Soft Launch

What it means: To post about your new relationship online in a way that is meant to be casual or discrete. Used for relationships that are not official yet and may end easily. Usually, you don’t include a full photo of your partner and may only have a part of them in the picture with you (like an arm or side profile).
How to use it: “I’m thinking about soft-launching my new relationship on Instagram. I don’t want to commit to anything yet since we’re not official.”

8. Mid

What it means: Something that is mediocre or unexciting.
How to use it: “I went to eat at the new restaurant downtown that everyone was raving about. Honestly, it was pretty mid.”

9. Touch Grass

What it means: Commonly used in the gaming community, “touch grass” is a way to tell someone to go outside and return to reality after spending too long online.
How to use it: “Jeez, you’ve been playing League of Legends for four hours. Maybe you should go outside and touch some grass.”

10. Stan

What it means: Heavily supporting something; being a big fan of something.
How to use it: “Did you see the preview for Jennifer Lawrence’s new movie? I’ve been stanning her since Hunger Games, so, of course, I have to go see it.”

11. F / F in the chat

What it means: Another slang originating in the online gaming community but gaining popularity on the internet, “F in the chat” is used when something unfortunate or bad happens to someone online and they are looking for support. If someone tells you “F in the chat,” you would respond with simply “F” to show your support.
How to use it: “Failed my chemistry test today. F in the chat.” “F.”

12. Ghost/ Ghosted / Ghosting

What it means: Used in the early stage of a relationship, you have been “ghosted” if the person you were talking to (usually in a romantic sense) stops replying to you and ignores your messages.
How to use it: “I try not to ghost anyone, but sometimes I forget to check my messages and then I’ve waited too long to respond, so I just ignore the conversation entirely.”

13. Bet

What it means: A confirmation. Similar to “yes,” “okay,” or “Let’s go.”
How to use it: “I got us tickets for the football game on Friday.” “Bet.”

14. Big Yikes

What it means: Commonly used when something incredibly embarrassing or cringy happens. It can also be used as a response to an offensive or rude comment.
How to use it: “I quit dancing after I ripped my pants onstage during a recital.” “Ooh, big yikes.”

15. Vibing

What it means: Having a calm, chill attitude; going with the flow; casual.
How to use it: “Don’t worry about me, guys, we can meet later if you’re busy. I’m just vibing, it’s totally fine.”

16. Main Character

What it means: Used to talk about someone who is likable and charismatic, or who seems to be the center of attention. You might also hear the term “Main Character Arc,” which denotes a period in someone’s life where they are confident in themselves and believe that they are in control and the center of their life.
How to use it: “Everyone loves Lana, she is a total main character.”

17. @me

What it means: Pronounced “at me,” it’s used when someone feels that a statement fits or describes them. It can be used negatively if someone feels as though they are being attacked online, but it is also commonly utilized to say that you think that a sentence or statement describes you.
How to use it: “My horoscope today said that Aquariuses are likely to have big personalities and get along well with others, but also need their alone time.@me, right?”

18. Facts

What it means: Stating the truth; saying something that can not be easily argued and that most people would agree with.
How to use it: “Wendy’s is so much better than McDonalds.” “Facts.”

19. Bestie

What it means: Abbreviation for “best friend,” though it is commonly used casually in place of words like “bro,” “dude,” “sis,” or “girl.”
How to use it: “Hey bestie, did you listen to that song I sent you yesterday?”

20. Situationship

What it means: A casual relationship that isn’t official despite the fact that both parties seem to have feelings for each other, although those feelings are not well-communicated or defined. A halfway point between being casual and dating.
How to use it: “Right now I’m in a situationship with this guy, but I want it to be something more serious.”

Do you know of more slang that other parents and older readers might want to know? Do you have questions about your child’s Gen Z vocabulary that weren’t covered in the article? Tell us in the comments! And for more Gen Z slang, check out our other article “Keeping Hip with the Kids: How to Use Your Children’s Slang.”

Draven Jackson HeadshotAbout Draven Jackson

Draven is an avid writer and reader who enjoys sharing her opinions on movies, books, and music with the rest of the world. She will soon be working as a teacher in Japan and hopes to use her experience to connect with other teachers and students around the globe. Draven spends most of her time at home with her family, her dogs, and her ferret.

To see more, view all posts by Draven Jackson here.

3 Comments on “Understanding Gen Z Vocabulary”


  2. I try to understand the vocabulary of the Millenials, but my Gen X age makes it hard. Tysm for the info!

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