Millennials are a unique generation. This is the first generation in American history since their grandparents—or, in some cases, their great-grandparents—to have weathered a recession. Millennials are still emerging as a group developmentally and economically. And unlike their parents, baby boomers and Gen Xers who had a set path laid out for them, millennials have had to, in many ways, reshape the economy as they have gone along.
Many of this generation born between 1981 and 1996 have eschewed traditional careers in favor of the so-called gig economy. Millennials have been called—with some debate—the narcissistic generation for having grown up with adulation at their every accomplishment, and it's an interesting question as to whether they are products of parenting, technology, or society, which has undergone so many changes in the past half-century.
One thing millennials are not is boring, and their use of language is as ever-changing as their financial situations. The millennial lexicon is as varied as those who speak it, tweet it, text it, and post it. There are phrases that speak to millennials' late arrival to responsibility (e.g., adulting) and those that speak to their love for one another (e.g., bae, fam, squad).
Stacker researched and compiled a list of 50 common millennial sayings from “IRL” and “FOMO” to “woke” and “yeet.” Whether you are a millennial, know a millennial, love a millennial, or can't stand millennials, this handy guide should make it at least a little easier to understand what they're saying. Read on to find out how to avoid being “hangry” at your next group gathering—or why you would even consider such a thing—and how to integrate language borrowed from LGBTQ ball culture into your everyday conversations.
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No one likes “adulting,” least of all millennials. The term refers to the mundane tasks of doing laundry, cooking, and paying bills. The very existence of a specialized word for doing these tasks is a subtle nod to millennials' delayed development in hitting adult milestones, according to lexicographer Jane Solomon.
Referring to one's significant other or simply the acronym Before Anyone Else, “bae” is often found in memes and Instagram captions. It's a term of endearment used by those who are too hurried or lazy to use the word “baby” or “babe.”
People definitely don't want to be called "basic"; the term describes a person who is only interested in mainstream, popular things and can't think for themselves. A “basic” person is a cookie-cutter version of everyone else with the same style, the same tastes, and the same personality.
Most often used with a hashtag in front of it (i.e., #blessed), this is a term millennials use to express gratitude or appreciation for good fortune, though some of its uses are questionable (e.g., “That booty pic? #blessed”).
“Bougie” is a term used to describe someone who acts as though they are of a higher socioeconomic class and stems from the French word “bourgeois” (middle class). The term has been popularized by rappers and other celebrities in the past few years. Some examples of “bougie” things include designer coffee, rose wine, and private schools starting with pre-K.
When someone says they need to “bounce,” it means they need to leave—fast. It may have originated from the term "bouncer," or someone who rejects people from the door of a nightclub.
A grammatical nightmare, this phrase means someone is so exasperated that they can't even deal with completing the phrase properly. When someone “literally can't even,” it means they can no longer deal with a particular person, situation, or thing.
Almost anything can be "canceled"—a person, a fast-food restaurant, or an especially rough year. Frequently applied to celebrities who commit a public gaffe (i.e. "Taylor Swift is canceled"), the term is a wholesale rejection or rebuke. Sometimes it translates to an actual boycott, but often it's simply a Twitter joke.
To “clap back” is the best way to respond to criticism or insults. A person may “clap back” at a frenemy who mocks their outfit by responding with a sharp comeback with attitude.
Short for “cray cray,” which was originally slang for crazy, “cray” just means crazy. The phrase was popularized by the song “N****s in Paris” by Jay-Z and Kanye West.
While the dictionary definition of "dank" means unpleasantly humid or damp and chilly, as slang the term refers to something else entirely. The word can be used to describe someone's level of coolness. Calling someone “dank” is the equivalent of calling them cool or great.
When someone has laughed so hard they can't laugh anymore they're “dead.” The term is often seen in response to memes or other phrases.
“Extra” is a term used to describe something that is overwhelming or one step above too much. For example, a person who wears a ballgown and tiara to a picnic is being “extra.”
For such an in-touch generation, it should come as no surprise that millennials treat their friends like family. “Fam” refers to individuals in a person's closest inner circle. A person's “fam” is someone they believe they can trust and consider family, whether blood-related or not.
Maybe not exclusive to millennials, this verb means to charm, steal, or smooth things out. For example, a person may “finesse” their way to the top of the corporate ladder.
A “fire” millennial is one who's exceptionally cool or great. Coincidentally, it also stands for “Financial Independence, Retire Early,” which may be a goal that many millennials strive for, especially as social institutions like Social Security become less available to them.
“FOMO” stands for fear of missing out and refers to a form of social anxiety that may be fueled by the internet age when there seems to be constant communication and a stream of social events. “JOMO,” on the other hand, is the joy of missing out and is described by Psychology Today as the “emotionally intelligent antidote to FOMO.”
Probably one of the most notorious millennial behaviors, “ghosting” refers to completely disappearing after hanging out and showing interest, whether in a potential partner, a career opportunity, or a friend. If someone suddenly stops answering texts, calls, or social media messages, they have “ghosted.”
Like many other millennial sayings, “goals” is a subtle way of expressing jealousy or admiration. Some common uses might include “That apartment is goals” or “That couple is relationship goals.”
An acronym for Greatest of All Time, “GOAT” is often used to refer to an expert in their chosen field. “Serena Williams is the GOAT in tennis,” might be one use of the phrase.
As seen in the 2018 film “Eighth Grade”—in which the protagonist signs off each of her videos with the phrase—“Gucci” can mean okay, cool, or great. The phrase can be used as an adjective or to express a feeling.
This term is a combination of hungry and angry. “Hangry” describes feeling both irritable and hungry. For example, a person may feel “hangry” if they skip a meal.
“High-key” and “low-key” are adjectives used by millennials to describe their level of enthusiasm for something. If a person “low-key” loves something, they're subtly excited about it. However, a person who “high-key” loves something is crazy about it.
A “humble brag” is a falsely modest statement that often consists of just enough self-deprecation to mask outright gloating. Someone who says that they're overwhelmed with packing for their upcoming Aspen ski trip is “humble bragging” because they're complaining and showing off at the same time.
“IRL” stands for "in real life" or anything not taking place on social media, over text, or on television. For example, someone may be very contentious online, but scared of confrontation IRL.
“Lit” is a term used to describe something that's fun, exciting, or crazy. A great party that's turnt up or popping can also be described as being “lit” in millennial speak.
Something is a “mood” when it's relatable. Often used as a photo caption, the term is a quick way to say, “This is how I'm feeling.”
“On fleek” can be used in combination with a noun to signify that something is flawless or on point. “Eyebrows on fleek,” was the original term coined by Kayla Newman in 2014. The phrase most often applies to a look and has been falling out of usage since its introduction five years ago.
“Receipts” refer to proof of someone's hypocrisy, often from past texts or screenshots of social media conversations. A person may choose to keep “receipts” as future ammunition against a friend or partner. It's not hard to imagine how this phrase originated.
“RT” is short for retweet and can be used in conversation to mean “ditto” or “I agree.” It originates from the way someone can like or agree with others on Twitter by retweeting or copying and pasting others' posts to their own feed.
Saying someone is “salty” means they are in a bad mood or acting upset or bitter, frequently over something minor. You can be salty about not scoring an invite to a party, or losing a poker match.
Used when someone says or does something particularly ruthless or unfiltered, this adjective can be used in the following context: “That was a savage comeback.” The term can also describe something or someone who's petty.
Derived from relationship, “ship” is a verb used to describe a fan's desire for two people or characters to get together. An example might be, “I ship Betty and Jughead.”
“I'm shook” is a common millennial saying in response to news or events that leave them confused or in total disbelief. It can refer to something serious (e.g., “The news has me shook right now.”) or something more frivolous (e.g., “That new album is so good, I'm shook.”).
To “slay” is to do something exceptionally well. One example might be, “I am slaying all of my goals in 2019 so far!”
Originating in ball culture and the LGBTQ community, “snatched” simply means attractive or amazing. The term can be used as an adjective (e.g., “Her outfit is snatched.”) or as a verb (e.g., “That performance snatched my wig.”)
In this usage, “tea” refers to gossip. Much like "snatched," this phrase originated in black drag culture and soon spread to the mainstream through RuPaul's Drag Race, The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore, and other pop culture vehicles. The phrase “sipping tea” is also in use, and describes quietly or passively absorbing gossip. It's often paired with a meme of Kermit the Frog sipping tea.
Similar to fam, a millennial’s “squad” is their ride-or-die group of besties. “Squad goals” is a popular combination of two millennial phrases—for example, taking a weeklong vacation in an exotic locale with friends.
This term is a combination of the words “stalker” and “fan” and refers to an abnormally high level of appreciation for someone or something. One example might be, “I love the Jonas Brothers, but I stan Nick Jonas. ”
When something or someone is "sus," they're being suspect or shady. It's an adjective often used as a replacement for the word “suspicious.” For example, “Kanye's behavior towards Kim has been pretty sus lately.”
To “swerve” implies that a person is avoiding someone. The phrase as a slang term originated in the song “Mercy” by Kanye West and can also be used to dismiss or tell someone to go away.
“Swol,” short for swollen, is used to describe the act of getting pumped from working out. It can also refer to a bodybuilder or someone who is physically fit.
“TBH” is an acronym for “to be honest.” This phrase is often used in web or text conversations to express someone's true opinions about a subject.
“TFW,” or “that feeling when,” is an abbreviation that is often used in an expression of emotion. “TFW” usually accompanies a meme or image of an uncommon situation and tries to make it relatable to readers.
This term is used to describe someone who's craving attention and will do anything to get it. It's an adjective used to describe individuals who act desperate or needy, and it sometimes has sexual connotations. For example, a person who obsessively texts their crush is “thirsty.”
To “throw shade” is to subtly direct anger toward someone. If the behavior is passive-aggressive and involves a little side-eye, it's probably shade.
This phrase may refer to internet trolls, or individuals who lurk and make disparaging posts in the comments section. In millennial speak, the term is most often used to describe someone who uses rude language to provoke others.
Someone is “woke” when they are aware of current affairs, racism, and structural inequalities in society. Critics have suggested that self-proclaimed “woke” individuals are more into “slacktivism"—or activism on social media intended to show off or gain followers—than actual, real-life activism.
A favorite phrase of Ilana Wexler on “Broad City,” “yaas” stems from ballroom culture. The term is used to express great enthusiasm (e.g., “Yaas, you got this!”).
“Yeet” is a way to show excitement or agree with someone. It's often used as an exclamation and originated from a dance of the same name on a Vine video in 2014.