Learning American street slang is vital to understanding the growth and evolution of the English language. Here at YourDictionary, we've gathered comprehensive lists of American and regional slang. We've included definitions of the most common of these slang words and provided additional usage information in various slang articles.
Slang in Popular Culture
Slang is defined as a casual type of language that is playful or trendy. Funny American slang words consist both of coined words and phrases and of new or extended meanings attached to established terms. Slang tends to develop from the attempt to find fresh and vigorous, colorful, pungent, or humorous expression.
Examples of common slang within the United States include:
- Ankle biter - A derogatory term for an infant or small child
- Bae - Short for "before anyone else," referring to a beloved individual like a significant other
- Bail - To leave in a hurry
- Chillin' - Spending time with your friends
- Drip - Extreme coolness, style
- Ether - To embarrass or criticize someone
- For real - Speaking honestly and truthfully
- Hooker - A female prostitute or someone who is behaving like a prostitute
- In a New York minute - To do something very fast
- Juiced - To be very excited or eager to do something
- Knocked up - A woman coping with an unplanned pregnancy, usually someone who is either very young or unmarried
- Queen - Positive female role model
- Rekt - Beaten, destroyed, especially in an online game
- Swag - Style, coolness
- Tea - Truth, especially unexpected or disturbing truth
- Trashed - To be very drunk or to completely destroy someone's property
- Yeet - To throw or propel vigorously; also, an excited exclamation
- Zonked - Completely exhausted, very tired
Since a number of slang terms make reference to sex, violence, drugs, or crime, the use of slang is often seen by many people as an indicator of the speaker's lower social status. Nothing could be further from the truth! The use of slang has no correlation to the speaker's intelligence or grasp of language. Indeed, creative use of slang can be a fun and enlightening component of anyone's vocabulary.
Regional Slang Words
Some slang words are commonly used across the country and appear in nationwide communication such as movies, television and magazines. But, some slang words have not gone mainstream and are used only in certain regions of the U.S.
For example, here are a few regional slang words. Several come courtesy of Huffington Post:
- Bubbler (Wisconsin, Massachusetts and Rhode Island) - Identifies a public drinking fountain. "It was so hot in the park, there was a line at the bubbler."
- Buffle-headed (Pennsylvania) - A mild insult calling someone foolish. "You're dripping that cheesesteak all over my lap, ya buffle-headed goof!"
- Clothes tree (Northeast) - A piece of furniture with extended arms that stands against the wall for hanging clothes. "Thought we had a break-in the other night, but it was just the cat knocking over the clothes tree."
- Everything but a child of God (originally Southern) - To be cursed out or called names. "I cut a truck off in traffic the other day; that man was calling me everything but a child of God."
- Fixin' to (South and Texas) - A quick way to say "will do that shortly." "I'm fixin' to go to the store. Y'all want anything?"
- Hella (Northern California) - A very casual slang word used as an adjective to describe something that is really good. "Waves are hella good; it's a great day to surf."
- Jeezul Pete (Cincinnati) - A minced oath for "Jesus Christ." See also "Jeezum Crow" (New England) and "Judas Priest" (nationwide, originally English).
- No account (South) - Something (or someone) broken or worthless. Never used ironically, and a pretty nasty insult when directed at a person. It's more commonly used to describe objects. "You still got that no account Pinto? Naw man, I got a rad Camaro up on blocks, but that engine just ain't no account."
- Pank (Michigan) - To compress or push down. "I had to pank down the garbage so that I could get more into the can."
- Punee (Hawaii) - A small couch or daybed. "It was too hot to ride bikes. We just napped all day on the punee."
- Whoopensocker (Wisconsin) - A uniquely Midwestern way to say something is wonderful. "Her rhubarb pie was a real whoopensocker."
- Wicked (New England) - Used for emphasis, the same way you would use "really." "These lobsters are wicked good."
- Y'all (South and Texas) - A shorthand way to say "you all" to address a group of people. "Do y'all want to go to the fair?"
American Slang Dictionaries Online
Since slang is constantly changing, it can be difficult to find definitions of certain terms in a printed dictionary. Luckily, there are many different websites offering rich collections of funny American slang words. For example:
- Dave's ESL Cafe has a short guide to American slang designed to assist those who are learning English as a second language.
- Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE) breaks the U.S. into multiple regions and subregions. It only includes words that are used regionally. Audio clips are included for many words, giving you the opportunity to hear the regional slang word being said.
- ManyThings has a list of more than 280 American slang definitions sorted alphabetically. Example sentences are provided with each term to make it easier to understand the correct usage.
- Urban Dictionary is a large website that allows users to submit their own definitions for various slang terms. While the quality of the information can sometimes be questionable, this site is often the best resource for learning more about obscure slang usage.
- Slang City, although not a dictionary in the traditional sense, is another great resource for anyone interested in learning more about American street slang. This entertaining website features articles, illustrated topical guides to various types of slang, and interactive games such as the "Random Insult Generator."
Slang is informal speech, and therefore should be avoided in formal writing, such as business correspondence, academic projects and essays. Slang is also not jargon, which is terminology associated with a particular profession or pastime.
Outside a formal or professional setting, slang is a vital part of American English. Screenwriters and novelists often draw on the power of slang in their craft, and it's a rare conversation between Americans that doesn't feature at least some funny American street slang. For more context, explore the history of American slang words. Happy learning!