Parents Guide On Understanding Teen Lingo

From eye rolls, grunts, and slamming doors to unexpected hugs, tween and teens are hard to predict and understand at times. But what happens when we can’t translate the actual words they are saying?

Communication between parents and children is an ongoing process with a variety of styles and mixed results. And no matter how hard we try, there will be times when our kids feel understandably misunderstood by us. This can range from heartbreaking to comical. Parents is here to help you with all of it, but, for now, we're going to give you an assist with the words your kids are saying that may sound like another language to you. Here's what you need to understand about popular teen sayings.

The first thing parents—non-Black parents in particular—need to know is that many of the words made popular on social media and spread from coast to coast are given to us and stolen from Black creators. What some consider to be "teen slang" is a very real dialect (or language according to some linguistics experts) called African American Vernacular English (AAVE) or Black English (BE). Whether you or your child know it or not, most of the words running through their friend circles came from Black culture.

Appropriating language and customs is not new and often leads to the erasure of Black people and their work when they are not given credit. Yet when Black and brown people are seen and heard using the language their white peers have taken on as their own, they are judged more harshly and disproportionately blamed, attacked, and stigmatized. When Black teens use language made popular on TikTok by non-Black teens, they are considered to be "thugs" or using "bad English," yet for Black teens, the words that originate in AAVE/BE, is the language they use in their homes and with family; AAVE is not slang for Black people. Non-Black and brown kids need to comprehend this because they are often seen as edgy and cool when they use Black-created words in comparison to the linguistic racism Black teens experience for using it.

While we want you to have at least a loose understanding of the words your kids are saying, it's just as important that you appreciate where these words come from so that you can talk to your kids about the importance of language and its origin. Imitation without recognition is not the greatest form of flattery here; educating ourselves and our kids is the best way to better understand all teens and the words that make up their vernacular.

Please know there are some discrepancies around meaning and first use rights of words that are trending, so it's also up to you to do due diligence and question where your child heard the term that is new to you. The first rule though is to know that most of these words aren't simply slang to many teens. Here's our best attempt at defining teen speak so you can make sense of the words that fall out of your child's mouth.


Origin: 2000s rap and hip-hop scene. (AAVE/BE)

Definition: Style, particularly cool and fashionable or sexy style.

Example: That kid has some serious drip!


Origin: Gaming community and stands for "play of the game."

Definition: Cool, great, excellent.

Example: Ooo, that game is pog.

No Cap

Origin: As early as 1980s hip-hop songs and continues throughout the rap and hip-hop scene. (AAVE/BE)

Definition: Not lying.

Example: I got an A, no cap!


Origin: This one seems as old as time, but the modern meaning seems to come from Black creators and made popular on social media.

Definition: An expression of excitement or approval. Can also be interpreted as a catcall or used to hype someone up. (Or if you are a parent it likely means exasperated.)

Example: Seeing your best friend hit the game-winning shot. "Sheesh!"

Vibe Check

Origin: Music producer and Twitter user @umru_ claims to have coined the phrase in 2019.

Definition: To check someone or something's energy or personality.

Example: The comment section passes the vibe check.

Hits Different

Origin: The queer community gets credit for this one after fans of YouTubers Daniel Howell and Phil Lester reacted when Howell posted his coming out video.

Definition: When something is unique or surprising in a good way.

Example: The new season of Bridgerton hits different.


Origin: Hip-hop and Black communities.(AAVE/BE)

Definition: Describes something that's amazing, particularly in music.

Example: This song slaps.

Lives Rent-Free

Origin: Ann Landers. In 1999 she wrote, "Hanging onto resentment is letting someone you despise live rent-free in your head."

Definition: Describes something you can't stop thinking about.

Example: That argument has lived rent-free in my head for days.

Our attempts to have ongoing communication with our children will be a bumpy ride. The best we can do is offer a safe place for our kids to tell us their stories and share what's important to them–even if it's a video game or anime series that is not in your wheelhouse of solitaire and Hallmark movies. But as your kid's language evolves, be sure to know where it came from.

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