american slang
US rapper Cardi B is behind one of the newest American slang in the last year. Source: Christophe Archambault/AFP

American slang has a vivid history. Many subcultures are behind them, from sexual deviants to narcotic addicts, from ghettos to gypsies. Each often shows unique linguistic phenomena that vary in form and content. 

Terms like “scab,” “company-man,” and “goon” were popular in the American slang vocabulary when workers began to organise in the US. Now, much like the rest of the world, American slang has kept up with the times, influenced by things like rap, music, and the younger generation. You’ve probably heard of “jiffy,” “flossin'” and “mint.”

Knowing how and when to use American slang will help you connect better with students in the US. Most importantly, it stands to make your time in the US of A that much richer. Let’s check out some of the most popular American slang below:

American slang: Most used words

Dope: meaning awesome, cool or great.

KK: another word for okay. 

OMG: stands for oh my god and is used in almost every sentence. 

Roomie: yep, you guessed it. This connotation simply means roommate.

Totes: if you want to say totally to a friend, try this word. 

Simp: if you’re prepared to obey someone, you’ll be a “simp” for them.

Cringe: just like the action suggests, this term means embarrassing. 

Fire: another way to say something is cool, e.g. “Her jacket is fire!”

Shut up: doesn’t actually mean stop talking, instead, it’s an expression of disbelief that prompts you to continue your story. 

Ditch: in uni, if you ditch class, you’re on Santa’s naughty list. Ditching is the American slang word for the British slang word: “skive.”

G.O.A.T: if people called you this, they’re actually praising you because it means Greatest of All Time and is a popular term in basketball in the US.

Slay: expressing great appreciation of something: “You slayed your performance!”. 

Tea: means gossip, a common phrase used in the US is: “Spill the tea”. 

ASAP: a popular term that stands for as soon as possible and is now used pretty much globally.

Broke: we all know this one, when you’re “skint” (British slang) or poor, you can consider yourself broke.

Bro: just like “mate” in the UK, “bro” means friend typically use amongst men. 

Buck: equals one dollar.

Cram: to study frantically last minute, a term we’re sure you’ll use often (wink). 

Flunk: when you fail a test or exam, you “flunked” so make sure you don’t use this term often.

Psyched: this word means you’re mentally prepared and excited for something. 

YOLO: this term stands for “You only live once” and is used to exaggerate actions like: “I already ate three donuts but I’ll eat one more because YOLO!”.

R.S.V.P.: although this derives from the French phrase: “Répondez s’il vous plaît”, people in the US have coined it and made it an American slang. It simply means you should answer an invitation.

American slang: Phrases to know

All the…: this phrase is a typical expression used to show strong feelings. An example for this would be: “All the good feels at Beyonce’s concert.”.

For real: another similar expression to “shut up” to emphasise a statement or ask if someone is serious.

Blow off steam: getting rid of stress, energy or anger. 

Break a leg: a way to wish someone good luck, usually before a performance. 

Curve ball: coined from a baseball term, a curve ball means something tricky or unexpected. 

Hang out: it doesn’t mean to physically hang out of a window or something, but more like chill with someone — a casual time with friends.

Hit the books: no, it doesn’t mean you actually slam or punch the books. It’s an American slang that’s used to say you’re about to study or do assignments. 

I’m down: you’re in for whatever event is happening. 

What’s up: how you ask how someone is or say hello. 

Zone out: something you should never do in class! This means you’re not paying attention as your mind gets distracted.

Break the ice: when you want to start a conversation and not begin with something awkward. 

Hit the sack: just like “hit the books,” but instead of studying this means sleeping. 

In a nutshell: another way to say briefly or concisely. 

On the house: if someone tells you this at a bar or a restaurant, it means they’re settling the bill so don’t forget to thank them. 

Under the weather: you’re not actually under the weather but this expression means you’re feeling sick. 

Now that you know some basic American slang, it’s time to put some into good use by getting out there and making new friends!