The millennial parent's guide to tween lingo

Marie Stambe
Marie Stambe
Marie is an emerging writer who loves all things content creation. From her Italian heritage to her deep-rooted passions (fashion, beauty, lifestyle, and fun), Marie harnesses the power of personal experiences to write stories that are #relatable and easy to digest. Because who has the time?
Created on May 30, 2024 · 9 mins read

Does anyone else feel like tween talk has reached a new level of incoherence? Even for us millennial parents who swear it wasn’t that long ago that we were ‘cool’ and ‘hip’ (yikes). So, we spoke to one of our Gen Z team members to break down modern-day tween lingo for us. Take it away Marie.

I think it’s safe to say that, with the ever-changing landscape of social media – trends and ‘lingo’ will never stick around for long. What’s ‘in’ one week, might be ‘out’ the next. It’s close to impossible to stay up-to-date as a parent. Your tween is speaking to you in a different language that’s pretty much gibberish. And they just expect you to understand, getting annoyed by your constant query – “What does that mean?”

With the amount of eye-rolls that one simple question elicits from your tween, you’d think their eyes would get stuck there. But no, they come back, followed by an over-dramatised sigh and an ABCDEFI-have to go. I’ve confused you. That’s a phrase curated by none other than Kourtney Kardashian herself – essentially, it’s a conversation stopper to cut off an interaction when you’re bored of it. Brutal, right? 

So, if you walk around the house saying “I’m not a regular mum, I’m a cool mum” (or you’re just a concerned parent just trying your best) this guide is right up your alley. 

As a resident slang user, I’m here to help decode the language of my generation and make everything a little clearer! Slay, let’s go!

Hyping something up

Internet-speak has a million and one ways of telling someone ‘Hey, you look good.’ These are a few of them: 

  • Ate that: Means you successfully did something; you pulled it off. Example: “I saw your prom pics on insta, you totally ate that look.”
  • Bussin’: Awesome. Example: These tacos are bussin’.
  • Dope: A way to describe something as cool or awesome. 
  • Drip: Style, great fashion sense, flashy accessories. 
  • Fire: Amazing. 
  • [Its] givingggg: A short phrase you use when something looks/feels/sounds/tastes great. “Girl look at my outfit, it’s giving today!”
  • Gas: can be used to describe something cool, or as a verb to mean “hype someone up.” Example: “You’re gassing me up right now!” 
  • Goals: Something you want or aspire to (#goals).
  • GOAT: Greatest of all time. 
  • Hits Different: When something is better than it normally is because of different circumstances. Example: “A cold soda just hits different when it’s super hot outside.”
  • Left No Crumbs: A phrase that means you did something perfectly.
  • Rizz: Derived from “charisma.” Someone who has “game” when it comes to romantic pursuits. Example: “Taylor has that rizz, they’re so charming.”
  • Snack: Describes an attractive person.
  • Snatched: On point, very good, or well-styled.
  • Slaps: Used to express that something is awesome. Example: “This burrito slaps.”

Roasting something

Just as much as tweens love gassing something up (which you understand now!), they also love a cheeky roast session. 

  • Chat: Term for “ugly” or “disgusting”, common here in Aus.  
  • Cheugy: Used to describe someone or something that is basic, out of date, or trying too hard. 
  • Basic: Someone who is viewed as boring or a conforming person. 
  • Cringe: Causing feelings of embarrassment or awkwardness. 
  • Karen: Used to refer to an entitled mum – often in a retail or hospo context. 
  • Ick/Ick Factor: The feeling you get when your attraction to someone is suddenly flipped to a feeling of disgust. Someone could start giving you the “ick”, for instance. 
  • Mid: Insult meaning “low quality” or “average.” Derives from “mid-tier”— not awful, but not great. Example: “The new Jurassic Park was mid.”
  • OK, Boomer: You probably know this one. It calls out an idea that is outdated or resistant to change. 
  • Trash: Terrible or unacceptable. 

TikTok made them do it

Even if your tween isn’t on TikTok (which would be a good thing), TikTok phrases make their way into pop culture pretty quickly. Many of these terms come from a trend or meme featured on the viral app. 

  • Beige flag: A quality or characteristic of a significant other that is weird or off-putting, but not enough to reject them. It’s not quite a red flag, so it’s a beige one.
  • CEO of [something]: To be a representative of some activity or thing. Example: “Taylor is the CEO of sleeping in late.”
  • [Something] coded: Used to refer to someone or something that has stereotypical or shared traits. For example, if someone shares traits with the fictional character Pikachu, then they’re “Pikachu coded.”
  • Canon Event: A moment in development that will help shape your life or personality.
  • Delulu: Short for “delusional” and used when someone has unrealistic ideas about something. 
  • Do it for the plot: Said to encourage oneself to take a chance on something. Example: I’m going to try out for the basketball team. Even if I don’t make it, I’ll do it for the plot.” Kind of like the modern day “YOLO”, if you will. 
  • Roman Empire: Something one thinks about very often. Derives from the internet realisation that a lot of men think about the Roman Empire weirdly often.

When they agree, relate, or more likely, disagree

Tweens have strong opinions, whether it’s in your favour or not. So needless to say, they have catchy phrases to let you know exactly what they think. 

  • A mood: A relatable feeling or situation (often shortened to the single word, “mood”). 
  • And that’s on [something]: Used to indicate that you’ve just shared a truth that needs no further discussion. 
  • Bet: A response indicating agreement. Example: “Wanna go to the store?” “Bet.”
  • Cappin’: Lying
  • No Cap: Used to indicate that someone is not lying. 
  • Facts: An emphatic way to acknowledge the truth of someone’s statement. 
  • Obvi: Short for “obviously” – their sarcastic way of saying, “yeah, duh.”  
  • YAAS: Another familiar one, this is a very emphatic yes. Often followed by “Queen.” 

Labels or terms of address

We might not be in the Mean Girls era of 2004 anymore, but we still love putting people in boxes and using specific terms of address to get their attention.

  • Bruh: “Bro”; can be used to address anybody. 
  • Egirl / Eboy: A young person with emo-inspired, punk-rock style. Think Tumblr circa 2014. 
  • Sigma: Someone who is a lone-wolf type, independent but still strong. As opposed to the more dominant “Alpha” male type. He’s not like other boys (eye-roll). 
  • Simp: Somebody who tries very hard and does a lot for their crush. Ex.: “You got Sarah 3 dozen roses? Stop being such a simp.”
  • Sis: Short for “sister” but can be used to address anybody; usually used to express that drama has occurred. 
  • Squad [gang]: Close friend group. 
  • Stan: Not the streaming platform. A teen slang term meaning an overzealous or obsessive fan of a particular celebrity. 

General tween slang

Then there’s a whole bunch of lingo that can’t really be put into a box. Tween slang defies all sense of logic and order. So, here’s a dump of some miscellaneous phrases you might’ve heard.

  • Ded: Used when something is really funny or embarrassing. Example: OMG that meme has me ded! 
  • FINSTA: Fake Instagram account. 
  • Ghosted: Ending a relationship by completely disappearing with no further communication. 
  • Gucci: Something good or cool. “It’s all Gucci” instead of “It’s all good.” 
  • High Key: If it’s high-key, it’s is “intense” and “out in the open.” It’s often used as an adverb for “very,” “really,” or “clearly.” Example: “This is high-key stressing me out.” 
  • Low Key: Alternatively, this speaks to how understated something is, and on a smaller scale – almost more tentative. Example: “I’m low-key happy about this right now.” 
  • IYKYK: “If you know you know”; meant to imply that there’s an inside joke. 
  • Salty: To be bitter or cranky about something. 
  • Shading: Where teens gossip about another party without naming them; also “throw shade” means to talk about someone. 
  • SMH: “Shaking my head,” meaning “I don’t believe it” or “that’s so dumb.”
  • Spam [account]: A social media account that only has selective people on it – typically, where you post unfiltered content and ‘spam’ your friends feeds.
  • Sus: Short for “suspicious.” Popularised by the Among Us game. Example: That alley is so sus.” 
  • TBH Definition: To be honest. 
  • Tea: Gossip or interesting news shared between friends. Example: “What’s the tea?”
  • YEET: To throw something a far distance.
  • Zesty: Gay

And as a quick side note, these are specific references to someone’s butt. Yes, really. 

  • Thicc: Having an attractive, curvy body. 
  • Bunda: Used to describe a large bottom. 
  • Cake: Also used to describe a large bottom. 

How to use this to connect with your Gen-Z teens (without being labelled cringe)

Staying relevant in your tween’s world isn’t just about providing them basic necessities like food and shelter, it’s about working towards open communication, building trust, and staying connected with your child. That can be pretty tricky in this contemporary society and digital age, where you can barely understand what they’re saying. 

My best advice is  – aim to be ‘in’ without being embarrassing. How to do this? Embrace the latest trends and sayings in the most nonchalant of manners. When it comes to throwing a “tea” or “chat” around, it’s all about timing and subtlety. 

Here, let me help – “tea” is Gen-Z’s way of saying gossip or the latest news. So, if your teen is excitedly telling you about school drama, you might ask them to “spill the tea!” It’s a fun, lighthearted way to show you’re engaged. Maybe just take a moment to observe how tweens are using it, because the last thing you want to do is use it out of context, like asking for the “tea” about their math homework. Awkward. 

Inserting a subtle “lit” and “slay” here and there will earn you brownie points in the eyes of your kids (so ‘cool mum’ coded!) but overuse will only set you on a path to Cringeville – no cap! And there is no coming back #notaslay. 

Aim for authenticity, and add it in where it seems natural. Keep it to one slang term or phrase every conversation, definitely not every word. And if you’re ever in doubt, swallow your pride and ask for help. Your tween will enjoy the chance to school you on the latest lingo – trust me. Even better, this will only turn a potential embarrassment into a bonding moment.

Wrapping up

So, go ahead and dive into the Gen-Z slang pool. Just remember to keep it natural, fun, and overall, subtle. Who knows – you might even find yourself becoming the GOAT (Greatest of All Time) in your tween’s eyes.

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