Update: check out our 2023 Parent’s Guide to Teen Slang!
Gen Zers have created an entirely new culture on TikTok with slang words. And for anyone who’s not a Gen Zer, it can be pretty confusing! Not to worry, we’re here to enlighten you on Gen Z slang. Check out this list of TikTok slang words, emojis, and more so you can stay in-the-know.
TikTok slang 2023
First thing’s first, you need to know what all of these slang words and phrases mean. Shade? Vibe check? It’s the __ for me? What is this code language?! Though some of these may seem strange or contrived to you, these Gen Z slang words and phrases signify belonging and membership to many TikTok users. So for Gen Z, they really matter! Here are some of the most common ones:
|And that’s on __||Example: A user might say, “And that’s on self-love” after a video explaining how they’ve started to take better care of themselves. Videos on any topic can use this phrase, which reinforces a certain message the user wants to get across.|
|CEO of __||When someone is the CEO of something, it means they’re the absolute best at that thing. Examples include “CEO of making TikToks in public” and “CEO of twerking.”|
|Check||Essentially means “check this out.” For example, “older sibling check,” “rich kid check,” or the ultra-popular “something traumatic that changed my life check.”|
|Day 1||When a user captions their video “day 1” it signifies a fresh start. Many “day 1” videos signify the loss of a relationship and find the user in a vulnerable position, but others can simply mean the first day of starting anything over, such as beginning a healthier lifestyle or letting go of friendships.|
|Duet||This is a video that’s played right beside another so that they can be watched simultaneously. Duets are usually created as response videos (example: “duet me if you think I’m cute), reactions (literally reacting with commentary or facial expressions to a certain video), or simply to interact with that person’s original video in some other way.|
|Euphemisms||This in and of itself is not a slang word used by TikTokers, but the idea of covering up certain words TikTok would use to flag a user’s video with euphemisms is a popular tactic. If a user types out a word like “sex,” “suicide,” or any other negative word that goes against TikTok’s policies, there’s a good chance the video will get taken down. The loophole users have found is writing words that look and sound like the actual word, but won’t be picked up by TikTok. For example, a user might write “seg” or “s£x” for “sex,” or “sue decide” for “suicide.”|
|Granola||Usually female, a “granola girl” is the chill, down-to-earth, hippie girl who loves the planet, probably composts, and lives in Oregon (or, at least she wants to live there).|
|Heather||A “Heather” is the beautiful, perfect, desirable person that everyone wants to be with, or just wants to be (Heather can be a male or female). PopBuzz describes it like this: “The ‘Heather’ trend was inspired by Conan Gray’s song of the same name. In the song, Conan sings about the all too familiar scenario where the person who you have a crush on has a crush on someone else.” On TikTok, users generally post videos to the tune of Conan’s song, saying they wish they were Heather. They may also describe other people as “Heather,” such as this girl, who says her parents are “THE Heather of couples.”|
|It’s the __ for me||This phrase started as a trend where two people would talk back and forth about something they can’t stand. For example, if two people were talking about quarantine, they could say: “It’s the never going outside for me,” then the other person would respond, “It’s the canceled concerts for me,” and so on. Now, the phrase can be used in a singular context to either describe themselves or comment on someone else’s video. For example, if someone posted a funny video where they’re wearing extremely high heels and falls down, someone might comment “it’s the heels for me,” or “it’s the falling down for me.”|
|Lives in my mind rent-free||This usually refers to a meme or video that a user finds funny or memorable. You know how some things live in your mind that you just wish you could forget? This is the exact opposite, as the meme/video “lives for free” in someone’s mind. A user will often post a video starting out with “this lives in my mind completely rent free,” then play a funny video or show a meme they enjoy.|
|Main character||A TikTok trend that places you as the starring role, aka the “main character” of life. For example, someone might say “Today, my sister just got hit on by a hot barista at the coffee shop we went to and she found $20 on the street, she’s got such main character energy.”|
|Periodt||Another word for “facts” or “tea,” usually used to end a sentence. For example, “He’s a simp periodt.”|
|Pick me girl||A “pick me girl” is a girl who tries to impress guys and by acting as if they’re “not like other girls.” It’s sort of the girl version of a simp.|
|POV||A “point of view” style video is a trend in which the user creates a video from the POV of a certain character, real or made up.|
|Put a finger down||The “Put a finger down” challenge is derived from the game “Never have I ever,” in which people take turns saying things they’ve never done, and if someone has done that thing, they put a finger down. There are two common variations of this game: 1. An audio plays in the background with a series of “put a finger down” statements, and when the user hears something they’ve done, they put a finger down, 2. The user shares a story in the “you” perspective (for example, “Put a finger down if one time you went to the mall and…”), and at the end of the video they put a finger down. The latter is primarily hyper-specific scenarios that don’t actually apply to most people, following more of a storytime format with the “you” perspective.|
|Put you onto something||When someone says “Let me put you onto something,” it means “Let me show you something,” basically, to tell someone about something that they believe that person/group of people needs to know about.|
|Shade||To talk trash about someone; to publicly denounce or disrespect someone.|
|Simp||Used to describe a boy who’s soft, weak, or sucks up to girls. For example, when talking about his friend who wimped out on something, a guy might say “he’s such a simp.”|
|Storytime||This is a common trend used to tell a story from one’s life and is usually something awkward, embarrassing, or shocking.|
|Towel on the head||When a user (usually male) puts a towel on their head it’s showing that they’re roleplaying a woman in their skit/story. Does a woman’s hair look equivalent to the towel they grabbed out of their laundry basket? We’ll let you decide.|
|Transition||A transition is when someone makes a smooth outfit change, makeover, scene cut, etc. In one popular use of transition, the user starts out with one look, then briefly covers the camera and reappears with a “glow up.” Here’s an example of another popular transition where a person throws a shoe in the air, swipes their leg to the left of the screen, and reappears with an outfit change.|
|Vibe check||Literally means to assess the vibe someone gives off. This phrase is often used in this context: “he passed the vibe check,” meaning, “he’s chill, easy-going.”|
For Gen Z, emojis have become a full-fledged language on their own. Though you may have seen these emojis before, they probably hold a much different meaning for Gen Z than you’d first think. Let us be your emoji translator!
|🥺 aka “pleading face”||The pleading face emoji has large “puppy dog” eyes as if begging or pleading. It can also represent adoration, happy emotions, a simp, or feeling touched by a loving gesture.|
|👉 👈||Two Fingers Touching are two index finger emojis touching one another, which indicates shyness or hesitation when asking a question. It’s the subject of the “Is for me?” meme, and is sometimes paired with the pleading face emoji.|
|😭 💀 ⚰️||Dead/dying/laughing. The “laughing face” emoji ( 😂 ) is officially out, and the “crying,” “skull,” and “coffin” emojis are in to signify that something is really funny, aka you’re “dead/dying.”|
|✨ [word] ✨||Putting a word between two sparkles emojis is a way of adding emphasis. For example, if a user is feeling excited about something they might caption their video “I’m feeling ✨ excited✨”|
|✍️||The handwriting emoji is found in the comment section to indicate that someone is “taking notes” on the subject matter in the video.|
|🎣||When a user comments the fishing emoji they’re indicating that they think the user is fishing for compliments.|
|⌛||When a user comments the hourglass emoji they’re indicating that they think the user has an hourglass figure.|
Mannerisms and gestures
This one is hard to explain without showing it. TikToker Benji Xavier puts it pretty accurately:
Let’s break it down: Things like the face slap, making the “AHH” sound (👁️👅👁️ in emoji language), and hair tucking are all ways for Gen Z to express themselves in a funny way. The face slap indicates something shocking that just happened, and the hair tuck usually indicates a sort of coy, shy behavior and is generally accompanied by a side smile (example: “a present, for me? *hair tuck*). And it’s important to remember that these are meant to be exaggerated and somewhat ironic, especially the hair tuck.
Not featured in the video: finger guns. Another hugely popular gesture, in which a user will wave around their pointed finger, usually when going off or making a point.