Top Words Used By Teenagers

What’s the most common word or phrase  you hear teenagers say? I want to know. (Use my comment feature and share your opinion.)

I ask because my friend Vicki called me the other day and asked me, “What is the one most common word or phrase teenagers say today?” Our online slang dictionary doesn’t sort by popularity.

My first hunch was to tell her, “I know, right?” No seriously… that’s the phrase I hear most teenagers say across the US today. They don’t realize they say it, but they say it.

“American Idol sucks this year.”

“I know, right?”

It’s a simple little phrase that I probably even said when I was a kid, but it’s come back with a new fervor. (“Fervor”? Really? Teens definitely aren’t saying fervor.)

But that’s not the phrase I gave her. I debated giving her “legit.” I’ve heard that used a lot lately. But that is one of those terms I truly heard about 8-10 years ago too. What I wanted was a word/phrase that is actually perceived as current and big. Maybe “just saying!” That’s another common one I hear right after a teenager says something rude.

“Megan wore that exact same outfit last Friday. Just saying.”

But I wanted a teenaged opinion. That’s the cool thing about being a parent of three teenagers. I went downstairs and asked my daughter Alyssa, “What’s the most current and recognized word or phrase used by teenagers today.”

She didn’t even hesitate for a second. She said, “YOLO. Everyone says it, and they all know they do.”

You might have caught me writing about YOLO before. This little acronym was already huge, but caught even more attention a few months ago when Andy Samberg and Adam Levine teamed up and made the YOLO parody video, aired on Saturday Night Live (we wrote a YouTube discussion starter using it). The phrase means “you only live once” and is used ubiquitously in teen culture.

My daughter also mentioned “swag.” She said, “No one would probably admit it’s popular, but everyone uses it.”

“So it’s like Facebook?” I clarified.

So what about you? What are the words or phrases you hear today’s teenagers saying? Jump on my comments and share.

About Jonathan McKee

president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices, If I Had a Parenting Do Over, 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He has over 20 years youth ministry experience and speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, and You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.
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30 Responses to Top Words Used By Teenagers

  1. Kathie says:

    This is so funny, particularly since I live with two teenagers! I’ve found myself saying I’m just sayin’ so many times! I would add the word ‘like’ to the list. It’s used like every other word. 🙂 I blame the Kardashians for that!

  2. Kelly says:

    I remember the first time one of my kids used “I know right?” It was my now 13 year old and I was talking to all 3 of the kids/teens and that came out of his mouth. I remember staring at him like he’d grown a second head. Sometimes the things they say crack me up and others make me wonder what our society has come to.

  3. Eleanor says:

    “I know, right!”

  4. Shanna Hale says:

    “like”…”it was like, cold out there” “like I love that song” etc.

  5. Kristie Escoe says:

    As the mom to a 13, 15, and 16 year old, I hear some ….. “swerve” and “twerk” are recent, although to be honest I’m still not really sure what they mean myself. 🙂 I hate “yolo”, but I agree with your daughter, although I think it might be on its way out. I’m clearly a fuddy-duddy because the one I can’t get past is the injuction of “like” in every singe sentence uttered by young people. “I was like, and then he was like, and then she was like” …. drives me batty.

    • Brian Lee says:

      “Twerk” – This is a dance where people shake their butts in a stripper style motion. Miley Cyrus was known for doing this in popular culture and many people followed. The one word I haven’t seen is Rachet. Rachet means that someone is ‘ghetto’ or in bad taste. “That dress she was wearing is straight rachet!”

  6. Sande Quattlebaum says:

    Definitely – right? or ya, right? or I know, right? — all variations for the same crazy phrase
    And still a BIG winner — “like I was…..Like…..Like….” Big in the 80s, Big now.

  7. Barbara says:

    I hear “sketch” a lot. Areas are sketch, people can be sketch, food can be sketch…

    • I hear “sketch” all the time!!! Good one.

      • Jono Davis says:

        I was going to say “sketch” if I didn’t see it in the comments. It’s used a lot in conjunction with “Legit”. Also I’ve never heard a teenager say “YOLO”. We all hate that phrase in our group 🙂

  8. dan manns says:

    “epic fail.”
    and here’s one i hear often… but it’s vulgar.
    when anything is perceived in a positive light it is said to be “the sh*t”. i don’t understand this one. This phrase used to refer to something that was garbage, trash or of inferior quality.
    then there is the phenomenon of added “izzle” or “izznit” to the end of a word. (for example: instead of calling someone the “N” word they might use the phrase “nizzle” instead. or “shizznit” instead of the “S-word” mentioned above.) credit Snoop Dog for this cultural grammatical faux pas.
    i apologize for using words that might offend but if you walk down any high school hallway you will hear this words quite often. sad but true.

    • I hear ya. It’s funny, some of these can be regional or throwback terms. Snoops use of the “izzle” is pretty dated now, and isn’t used mainstream, but every once in a while I hear it. As for “the sh*t”… I used to hear that in the late 80’s all the time! Kids still use it. Funny how some of these terms stick around.

  9. dan manns says:

    this whole article is a bit cray cray

  10. Robert says:

    I may use this as a discussion starter/mixer of some kind tomorrow night. I will let you know what I hear!

  11. Charlie says:

    Just heard “ratchet” on the bus to our baseball game but not sure if many kids say it now. The worst thing is when adults try to use teen slang and are outdated. It changes fast. I hear some people in ministry use “stoked” and think that was cool in the 80s maybe?

  12. Stephanie says:

    The one phrase I hear lately is “Just kidding” and it’s not used in the “correct” way. Instead of doing or saying something as a joke, and then saying… “just kidding”. Instead, it’s used when they (teens) make a mistake or speak in error. So instead of saying, “Oh, I’m wrong about that” or “I’ve got that wrong”; it becomes “just kidding!” It drives me nuts.

    Just saying! 🙂

  13. Christine says:

    I hear “beast” a lot. In their use, it’s synonymous with legit and hardcore.

  14. Joe Vivian says:

    Here is what Baylee, my 16 year old daughter, and her teenage friends shared with me:
    YOLO, Swag, Hop Off, Turn Up, No Balls, They Jewed me Fat, Swerve, Ballin/Baller, Dueces.
    And this is what a private, Christian school education gets ya…

  15. Shannon Hutchison says:

    “triflin’/trifling” as in “You are triflin’ ” or “Quit trifling”. It is quite amusing to hear. I also hear “for real/for reals” and O.M.G. (said very slowly to emphasize each letter) quite a bit s well.

  16. Brandon says:

    I definitely laughed at the person who put “cray” down because that is the one I use to give my students a hard time. The other one I use a lot to make them think I am trying to be hip is “totes.”

  17. Robert says:

    Ok, so I decided to make a whole mixer/icebreaker out of this. First I made a power point game of slang words from different decades, where kids had to guess what decade the terms originated. Jonathan, I can send this to you as a separate e-mail if you’d like. I then challenged them to start using some of them in real conversations and facebook updates.
    Then I had them list phrases/slang they use a lot.
    Here’s the list:
    Beast, Sick, Cool, My bad, Awesome, Sweet, homie, OMG, YOLO, Whatev, fo real doe, totes (totally), holy cow, happy pants (a way to say cheer up: put on your happy pants), parentals, cool story bro, smh (shaking my head), face palm (with or without the action of smacking your palm to your forehead), yee yee (I have no idea what that one means), jacks, swag, obvi (“that’s obvious!”), yardi (?), jk, homie don’t play that!

  18. Wes says:

    So stoked to see this blog today. It is da bomb! Thought I was trippn, but it is fo real, fo sho, fo sho. I was just thinking bout all this today as I was bumpn down the street showing off my new skips

    40 is still ancient to the under 25 mind. 30 might never come. I quit trying to sound cool about 12 years ago. Unless, as a joke, I purposely use a word wrong or out of context. Also like to throw in some oldies just to keep ’em guessing.

    I live in rural SD. I have found that most towns/schools have some of their own slang which differs from the next town/school. Good luck keeping up w/ that…


  19. Greg says:

    “Hashtag!” – shortly followed by something that just happened (Example: “Hashtag… Ballin’!”)

  20. Mark B says:

    From the UK, Sick, Bear (meaning really, as in that was Bear good), Literally is used a lot, Proper to describe everything, “that was proper funny”, or Well “that car journey was well long”.

  21. Jay S says:

    Ok, so I am a youth minister and the one that I just heard (maybe I am slow) the other day when I was bringing my group to Winter Jam..

    Jay…”Turn Uuup!!”.

    I looked at the radio and the heater and did what I was asked with a lost look on my face…to which she replied…”Jay…You Turned up!?”

    I said which one? Heater? Radio? She laughed thinking I was joking. Then she realizedI I wasn’t and told me…”No no, it means to get pumped, amped…excited…ready to party!!”

    I was like…oooh She said, yes it actually has several meanings…for some school friends they think it is “turn up as in turn up your glass t drink”…so it is a party slang….but it also just means to get excited….then she said “Oh Jay…I guess I need to be your dictionary for today’s popular words”…and I emphatically said…”YES, PLEASE!!” haha

  22. Meli says:

    Whhaaamm….compliment someone’s picture…that’s whaaaamm…. Or she hits the gym now that’s whaaaamm