Have you ever seen a post on social media calling someone based and thought, “based on what?” Based isn’t “based” on anything — and if you use it incorrectly, you may run the risk of being quite unbased.
What Does “Based” Mean?
The 21st-century slang word based means “uncaring, courageous, or bold.”
Calling someone based means you think their actions or opinions are unaffected by popular opinion.
- Being called based is a good thing. It means you stand out!
- I’m not going to lie, your memes are pretty based.
- It would be so based if she did that.
- I actually think that night shift workers are pretty based.
- He’s definitely one of the most based people on TV right now.
Where Did “Based” Come From?
Based initially came to be as a shortening for the slang term basehead, which is a drug addict that uses freebase cocaine, a refined version of the drug that is often associated with addiction and changes in behavior.
Describing someone as based meant that they acted as if they were addicted to cocaine, i.e., behaving erratically or oddly. It was often used as a synonym for the insults weird or crazy.
In 2007, San Francisco Bay Area rapper Lil B and his group, The Pack, released their debut album Based Boys, which completely recontextualized the term based to mean “being yourself, staying positive, not letting people change you, and having people accept you for who you are,” according to the rapper.
Since 2007, Lil B and based have become popular references in online memes, with the eccentric nature of the rapper being both praised and poked fun at. His use of based was eventually adopted in internet slang to mean “different but bold” or “agreeable but not popular.”
How To Use “Based”
There are three main ways that based gets used, depending on where — and why — you’re saying it.
“Based” Can Be a Compliment
If based is used as a positive adjective, it describes something as being “unabashed, bold, or standout,” while suggesting approval.
For example: This music video is so based.
Alternatively, based is sometimes just a synonym for awesome or cool.
“Based” Can Be Ironic
The most common way that based is used on social media is ironically — having the opposite meaning.
If Lil B’s definition of based is considered, the ironic use satirically implies that whatever is being described as based is “different, bold, and unashamed,” but genuinely means that it’s “different, bad, and shameful.”
The general "awesome" use of based can also be ironic by describing something that is either boring or low quality as "awesome" sarcastically.
“Based” Can Be Political
Since the mid-2010s, based has gained usage in some radical and reactionary political groups such as the alt-right as an antonym for the political slang term woke.
Woke, in the context of political slang, means “aware of common oppression and injustice in society.” By that definition, based is used to mean “not believing that these injustices exist.”
This meaning is taken from Lil B’s original description of “doing your own thing,” implying that based people and opinions are those that “do their own thing” by not letting “woke” ideals affect their behavior.
Although based is widely used within these radical political circles, it’s still used positively and ironically in others unrelated to politics.
In addition to an adjective, based can be used as a short response of agreement similar to “facts” or “too right.”
For example, if someone said, “They really shouldn’t be doing this anymore,” someone who agrees might respond, “Based.”
What Does “Unbased” Mean?
Unbased, usually used ironically, takes the above definition of based and reverses it, meaning “someone who is heavily influenced by others.” Online, it is used as a synonym for the slang term normie.
- She wore those popular pants because she’s so unbased.
- I feel unbased when I admit to liking that new band.
- Does it make him unbased when he gets his hair cut like everyone else?
Using Lil B’s definition as a baseline, unbased would mean “letting other people influence you” or “mimicking others instead of being yourself.” And extending that to its modern use as internet slang, unbased means “mainstream, dull, or overly popular.”
How To Use “Unbased”
Even though unbased isn’t as popular as based, you can use it in a number of ways.
“Unbased” Can Be an Insult
While based is used to compliment people and things for being different, unbased is used to insult them for being too average or typical, or more accurately, for lacking an exciting trait.
It’s also used as a synonym for bad or boring.
“Unbased” Can Be Ironic
Using unbased ironically refers to something that’s very different or “out there” as unbased, ironically implying that it’s completely normal, but truly meaning that it is either weird, bizarre, or different.
Unbased isn’t used ironically as often as based though.
“Unbased” Can Be Political
When used by those with radical or reactionary political opinions, unbased is almost always a synonym for woke and is usually used to describe people who speak out on issues of social or racial injustice, as an insult.
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Related Terms for “Based”
Since based is used in so many ways by so many people, it’s spawned some related phrases that you’ll likely see on social media. Here are some of the most common spin-offs of based.
In 2010, Lil B adopted a persona called BasedGod. This fictional deity preaches messages of being positive and “doing your own thing” without worrying about what others think.
BasedGod became a meme in the 2010s, spawning hundreds of posts and images of people praying to BasedGod for various ironic reasons, such as asking him to help their teams win sporting events. Fans of Lil B (and those making a mockery of the whole BasedGod meme) will often repeat the phrase “Thank you BasedGod,” in ways that mimic how Christians say prayers of thanks to their god.
A meme use of based is to refer to someone or something as a title starting with based. It is usually used with another title, like Based Teacher or Based Actor, especially when commenting on someone the speaker doesn’t know personally, but is impressed by.
This use also follows the complimentary, ironic, and political forms of based. When used politically, sometimes based will be used as a title, suggesting that a public figure agrees with the politics of the alt-right.
Based and Redpilled
The Red Pill is an allusion to the 1990s sci-fi movie The Matrix, in which the main character is offered the choice between a blue pill that will let him return to his everyday life or a red pill that will allow him to perceive the nature of the computer simulation in which he lives.
Saying that someone has “taken the red pill” or that they’re “redpilled” means that they’ve realized something significant that was once hidden from them. In the context of the based and redpilled meme, this almost always means that the person understands what is popular and chooses to be contrary to that or to seek something new or high-quality.
This meme emerged out of the radical political use of based and first gained traction in popular inflammatory forums such as 4chan, but was eventually satirized and joked about so much that the term has lost much of its political weight and is mainly used ironically now in similar ways to based.
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