13 slang words Gen Zers are using in 2024 and what they really mean

  • Just like the generations before them, Gen Z uses an extensive list of slang words.

  • "Bussin'," "ick," and "mid" are popular among Gen Zers.

  • Social media helps slang spread rapidly, but proper credit is often lost along the way.

Just like fashion, slang goes in and out of style.

Think about it: When was the last time you heard anyone say "YOLO," "da bomb," or "tubular" unironically?

Social media has made it even harder to keep up with the trends, as anyone and everyone can share and adopt others' use of language.

John Baugh, a linguist at Washington University in St. Louis, told Business Insider last year, "Even though slang has always existed, the emergence of social media has created a situation where the potential for slang virality has increased."

While this can be an exciting opportunity for people to connect and bond over language, one major issue is appropriation. Many of the slang words attributed to Gen Z — defined by the Pew Research Center as anyone born between 1997 and 2012 — were created by members of marginalized communities, most notably Black and LGBTQ+ communities, which often aren't credited for their contributions.

The language is shared online in circles of people who understand its nuance, and it's later appropriated by those who don't know where it came from or fully understand how to use it. And it's easy for those who created it to see when it's being used incorrectly.

Brands or publications trying to attract attention from Gen Z, therefore, need to take care when using slang — at best, they could make a cringey mistake; at worst, they could offend people.

Gen Z values authenticity more than older generations did. Chad Kessler, who was then the global brand president at American Eagle, told BI in 2019, "Gen Z wants to support and participate in brands that they believe in and that reflect them."

He added: "They are loyal to brands that they feel understand them and reflect their values."

As slang continues to evolve daily in person and on the internet, all these words and phrases are subject to their respective ends, when they're axed from public use and deemed "uncool."

But at least for now, here are 13 slang terms Gen Z is using in 2024 and what they mean.

If you're told to do something "for the plot," it means to do it for the experience.

Crowd on day two of Lollapalooza Brazil 2024.
Crowd at Lollapalooza Brazil 2024.Mauricio Santana/Contributor/Getty Images

Saying "for the plot" is a fun way for Gen Z to encourage each other to do the crazy, fun things that make storytelling fun when you're older.

Urban Dictionary defines "for the plot" as "the conscious decision to see yourself as the main character of the story that is your life," adding: "You maintain the outlook that every moment — good or bad — is merely a plot point for your larger narrative."

Whether you swipe right on Tinder or go out spontaneously on a Tuesday night, it's all about the plot.

Still popular from 2023, someone with "rizz" has charisma.

(L to R): Essence Atkins as Ashley Wayne, Marlon Wayans as Marlon Wayne, and Asia'h Epperson as Tanya in an episode of "Marlon" in 2018.
Essence Atkins as Ashley Wayne, Marlon Wayans as Marlon Wayne, and Asia'h Epperson as Tanya in an episode of "Marlon" in 2018.Jordin Althaus/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

It's true, Gen Z has an affinity for abbreviations.

A person with "rizz" is confident, charming, and generally successful in romantic endeavors.

An "ick" is a turnoff.

Olivia Attwood Dack attends the TV Choice Awards 2024.
Olivia Attwood Dack helped coin the term "ick" during her appearance on season three of "Love Island."Hoda Davaine/Dave Benett/Contributor/Getty Images

Ah, the ick. The term first gained widespread popularity years ago after the "Love Island" contestant Olivia Attwood (now Olivia Attwood Dack) used it during season three, but "the ick" remains a staple in Gen Z's vocabulary.

If someone gives you "the ick," it means they've turned you off, either through their actions or behaviors or something they said.

BI reported "icks" could come from actions as small as using the "wrong" emoji in conversation to as large as treating a service-industry worker poorly.

It's all about personal preference.

If someone lives "rent-free" in your mind, you think about them a lot.

Beyoncé performing at Coachella in 2018.
Beyoncé performing at Coachella in 2018.Larry Busacca/Staff/Getty Images for Coachella

They're taking up so much space in your mind that they might as well be paying rent.

Though often associated with specific people like a crush or celebrity, the phrase can also apply to events. For example, someone may say "Beychella" (Beyoncé's iconic 2018 Coachella performance) lives rent-free in their mind.

"Mother" is a popular term of endearment for female celebrities that originated in LGBTQ+ communities.

Rihanna performs during the Apple Music Super Bowl LVII Halftime Show in 2023.
Rihanna performs during the Apple Music Super Bowl LVII Halftime Show in 2023.Kevin Mazur/Contributor/Getty Images for Roc Nation

The New York Times reported last year that the term came from the Black and Latino LGBTQ+ ballroom scene, "a queer subculture in which members are organized into so-called houses often led by a 'mother.'"

"Mother" is a woman deserving of your respect who's had a profound influence on your life.

But who is "mother" depends on whom you ask. For some, it's Diana Ross. For others, it's Rihanna. The internet would argue it's also Reneé Rapp, Mariah Carey, Lana Del Rey — the list goes on.

Michaela Jaé Rodriguez played a house mother in the groundbreaking series "Pose" and told The New York Times that "anyone should be able to use a term that is trending" but that it's important to know where it came from.

"The boundaries are knowing where it came from, always letting the world know where the culture came from," she added.

If a person "ate," they executed something flawlessly.

Zendaya at the Australian premiere of "Challengers" in March 2024.
Zendaya at the Australian premiere of "Challengers" in March.Don Arnold/Contributor/WireImage

Often associated with fashion and beauty, saying someone "ate" is a way of expressing they look amazing and did a great job.

Look at almost any picture of Zendaya on the red carpet, and it'd be correct to say, "She ate."

"Left no crumbs" is a continuation of "ate" that's used as additional emphasis.

Blake Lively attends the 2022 Met Gala.
Blake Lively attends the 2022 Met Gala.Chris Polk/WWD/Penske Media via Getty Images

If you hear "she ate," you may often hear "and left no crumbs" immediately after.

The additional phrase helps emphasize how perfect the person's execution was, though it can be used on its own, too.

For example, "Blake Lively ate and left no crumbs at the 2022 Met Gala." That means she executed the theme perfectly — everything from her dress to her glam to the presentation on the red carpet was flawless.

"Bussin'" or "buss" means it's very good.

Items from Taco Bell.
Items from Taco Bell.Rachel Murray/Stringer/Getty Images for Taco Bell

Often used to describe food, "bussin'" is a word that originated in the Black community and means extremely good or delicious, per Merriam-Webster.

So if your kid says dinner tonight was "bussin'," just know you did a great job.

Something is "mid" if it falls short of expectations.

Kaley Cuoco attends the Critics Choice Awards in January 2024.
Kaley Cuoco attends the Critics Choice Awards in January.Jeff Kravitz/Contributor/FilmMagic

Whether it's a dress on the red carpet, a new TV show, or a pasta recipe, something that's "mid" is mediocre.

BI reported that Kaley Cuoco's 2024 Critics Choice Awards gown missed the mark, so it could also be described as mid.

Another way to say focus is "lock in."

People studying at a library.
People studying at a library.Dilara Irem Sancar/Anadolu via Getty Images

You can "lock in" on an assignment, cleaning your apartment, or even a video game.

"Let him cook" means don't stop him from doing his thing.

NC State forward DJ Burns Jr. played in the Elite 8 round of the 2024 March Madness Tournament.
The NC State forward DJ Burns Jr. played in the Elite Eight round of the 2024 March Madness tournament.Lance King/Contributor/Getty Images

While NC State ultimately lost to Purdue in the Final Four, DJ Burns Jr. was a standout in the 2024 March Madness tournament.

His coaches clearly saw how impactful his performance was in their tournament run and decided to "let him cook," upping his average minutes from 24.8 a game in the regular season to 28.2 in their five games of the tournament, per ESPN.

Why call yourself delusional when you can say "delulu"?

Renee Rapp at the 35th GLAAD Media Awards in 2024.
Reneé Rapp at the 35th GLAAD Media Awards in 2024.Matt Winkelmeyer/Staff/Getty Images for GLAAD

As we've already established, Gen Z loves abbreviations.

"Delulu" simply means delusional.

Rapp, a 24-year-old Gen Zer, famously told the "Today" show last year that what gave her confidence was delusion. She followed up on her comments in Gem Magazine this year, saying, "It's so interesting because I feel like delusion is cute now. Delusion is becoming slay. It's very funny and silly."

"It's just a weird, innate belief in myself," Rapp added, "and a real hunger to do something that I love so much. So I think delusion is like my little BFF. It's got me where I am right now."

As the kids say, delulu is the solulu.

(Delusion is the solution).

"Sus" is short for suspicious.

Sarah Ann Bick and Jeramey Lutinski at the season six reunion of "Love is Blind."
Sarah Ann Bick and Jeramey Lutinski at the season six reunion of "Love is Blind."Netflix

"Love Is Blind" fans know that Sarah Ann Bick's and Jeramey Lutinski's behavior on season six was sus.

Like Chelsea Blackwell said in the reunion, who really stays out talking to someone — who's not their fiancé — until 5 a.m.? And can you really trust someone who lies about their location even after they've shared it? Didn't think so.

Read the original article on Business Insider