80s Slang Terms
1. Gag me with a spoon“Gag me with a spoon” is an expression you can use when you want to show disgust or disappointment and it’s not enough just to say, “I disapprove.” Basically, you’re so disturbed that you want to test your gag reflex.Example: “I can’t believe she wore those shoes. Gag me with a spoon!”
2. Barf me outWhat is it with the ’80s and regurgitation slang metaphors? Evidently, “gag me with a spoon” wasn’t enough to express contempt. In the ’80s, if you really wanted people to know your level of physical revulsion, you used this puke-inducing phrase.Example: “He’s wearing jam shorts to church? Barf me out!”
3. PhatThe ’80s slang term “phat” has nothing to do with being overweight. When “phat” is spelled with a ph, it’s describing something as exceptional. Yes, oddly enough, being called “phat” is a compliment!Example: “That velour sweatsuit is phat!”
4. BadIf something was “bad” in the ’80s, that meant it was good. However, “good” did not mean “bad.” “Good” still meant “good,” and “bad” just meant “really good.”Example: “Just saw the baddest Trans Am down the block.”
5. Bag your faceIf your facial appearance leaves something to be desired, perhaps you’d feel more comfortable with a brown paper bag on your head. This train of thought is precisely how hip folks in the ’80s came up with the cruel slang phrase “bag your face.”Example: “I have so many zits—I should just bag my face.”
6. What’s your damage?This is not a sincere question. Coined by the 1988 teen drama Heathers, it’s a harsher way of saying, “What is the matter with you?”Example: “You told Brenda what I said about her? What’s your damage?”
7. Have a cowIn the ’80s, if you were getting overly emotional or upset about something, you were “having a cow.” How exactly this cow was being had is open to interpretation—but really, there’s no good literal or metaphorical way to have it.Example: “I’m just teasing you. Don’t have a cow, man!”
8. No duhWhen someone utters something that is extremely obvious and apparent, there were a lot of “no duhs” in response in the ’80s.Example: “Do you think growing a rat tail was maybe not the best look for me?” “Um, no duh.”
9. ChoiceThe slang term “choice” is a sign of approval and possibly even envy. If someone says that something of yours—like your look, your car, or your hair—is “choice,” they’re saying that you have made the right decision.Example: “Your mullet is looking choice today, my man.”
10. Not even“Not even” is a quick way of saying, “I think you’re wrong, but I’m too lazy to get into a whole thing where I list the reasons why.” If the person you’re talking to retorts with “even,” then the argument is officially over.Example: “She’s totally into you, dude.” “Not even!” “Even.”
80s Slang Terminology
1. GnarlyWhen surfers describe something as gnarly, they mean that it is especially difficult or even dangerous. However, in the ’80s, “gnarly” became a shorthand for anything and everything considered cool and/or exciting.Example: “That Bill Murray movie was so gnarly!”
2. TubularTo be tubular—or better still, totally tubular—is to be remarkable and breathtaking. This is yet another example of the surfer slang that dominated the ’80s.Example: “The way he looks in parachute pants is totally tubular!”
3. WordSaying “word” is the equivalent of saying “I agree.” Or, if you say the slang term with a questioning intonation, it can also be used to express doubt and disbelief in what someone is saying.Example: “That movie was terrible.” “Word?” “Word.”
4. GrodyWhen something is gross but with a little extra je ne sais quoi, it’s crossed over into grody territory. And when something is really grody, that’s when it becomes grody to the max. You can’t get any more disgusting than that.Example: “You’re eating so much nacho cheese. It’s grody to the max!”
5. Grindage“Grindage” describes delicious food that you intend to chow down on with extreme enthusiasm. This slang was gifted to pop culture by Pauly Shore.Example: “Mind if I help myself to the grindage in your fridge?”
6. Cheeuh!“Cheeuh”—a slang term used to acknowledge that something is true—is not so much a word as it is an expulsion of random letters from your mouth. To pronounce it, pretend you’re trying to say “cheetah” after consuming a bottle of vodka.Example: “You wearing your Frankie Say Relax T-shirt tonight?” “Cheeuh!”
7. ButterJust like the yellowish substance spread on your morning toast, something is “butter” if it’s smooooth.Example: “Naw, man, you gotta peg your pants. That’s butter!”
8. BodAs a gym rat in the ’80s, it wasn’t enough to have a nice body. You had to have a great bod.Example: “You’d wear muscle tees all the time too if you had a bod like that.”
9. ZeekWhen a geek has undeniable sex appeal, he or she is elevated to “zeek” status.Example: “Don’t tell anybody I said this, but I think Urkel is a total zeek.”
10. BounceWe’ve reached the end. Time to leave—and by leave, we mean “bounce.”Example: “This list of ’80s slang terms is totally over. Let’s bounce!”
80s Slang Terms Words
1. BODACIOUSAccording to Green’s Dictionary of Slang, this word—a blend of bold and audacious meaning “excellent, wonderful, very enjoyable”—was coined in the 19th century but found new life in the 1970s thanks to CB radio, where it was used to reference a strong incoming signal. In 1989, it was featured heavily in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure; you can see a short clip of Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter discussing the word here.
2. HELLAAccording to Green’s, this adverb can mean either “a lot of” or “very, extremely, really,” and it’s an abbreviation of helluva, as in, “he had one helluva headache.”
3. GNARLYIt’s probably not a surprise that gnarly comes from gnarled. According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), the word originated in the 1970s as a surfing term meaning “dangerous, challenging,” perhaps in reference to rough seas. Green’s notes that gnarly can be a term of disapproval, meaning “bizarre, frightening, amazing,” or, conversely, it can be used to describe something that is “wonderful, first-rate.” It was popularized by Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982).
4. DUHThis word, also frequently used in the phrase “no duh,” is, according to Green’s, a “grunt of incomprehension … often used as a rejoinder, implying that the first speaker is stupid.” The OED’s first citation is a 1943 Merrie Melodies cartoon: “Duh … Well, he can’t outsmart me, ’cause I’m a moron.” In 1964, The New York Times Magazine noted that the word “is the standard retort used when someone makes a conversational contribution bordering on the banal. For example, the first child says, ‘The Russians were first in space.’ Unimpressed, the second child replies (or rather grunts), ‘Duh.'”
5. TUBULARTubular, from the Latin tubulus and the French tubulair, began its life in the 1680s as a word meaning “having the form of a tube or pipe; constituting or consisting of a tube; cylindrical, hollow, and open at one or both ends; tube-shaped.” But in the ’80s, it took on a new meaning entirely—this one related to waves. According to the OED, surfers in the U.S. used it to refer to “a cresting wave: hollow and curved, so that it is well-formed for riding on,” and soon, it came to mean “the ultimate in perfection,” according to Green’s. The word (as well as many others on this list) was featured in Frank Zappa’s 1982 song “Valley Girl”: “It’s so AWESOME / It’s like TUBULAR, y’know.”
6. EAT MY SHORTSThat’s shorts as in underwear. This phrase dates back to the early 1970s (Green’s cites a 1975 issue of the Harvard Crimson: “They chant cheers as […] unrefined as ‘A quart is two pints, a gallon is four quarts; Harvard men will eat Yale’s shorts’”) but you might remember it from John Hughes’s 1985 film The Breakfast Club. Later, it would be used liberally by Bart on The Simpsons.
7. GAG ME WITH A SPOONThis expression of disgust, dating back to 1982, apparently had other forms as well: Gag me with a blowdryer, a snow shovel, a phone book (remember those?!).
8. RADICALThis adjective, meaning “extreme; outrageous; good,” originated in the late 1960s. Radical is another term borrowed from surfer slang, according to the New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, after which it “migrated into the argot of the San Fernando Valley”—a.k.a. Valley Girls—“and then into mainstream U.S. youth slang.” In 1988, it even appeared in Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses. Green’s pinpoints the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles craze” of the 1990s for bringing radical to the masses. Rad, a shortened version of the word, was also a popular way to describe something you really loved (as well as the title of a 1986 BMX movie starring Lori Loughlin and Talia Shire).
9. TAKE A CHILL PILLWhen you tell someone to take a chill pill, you’re telling them to relax. According to Green’s, the phrase originated on college campuses in the early ’80s.
10. WASTOIDAccording to The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, someone who is a wastoid is “a worthless, dim-witted person; a person whose drug and alcohol abuse is ruining their life.” The term was coined by John Hughes, who used it in The Breakfast Club: Listen for when Andrew tells Bender, “Yo wastoid, you’re not going to blaze up in here.”
80s And 90s Slang Terms
Slang That Means “Yes”You might think that one word meaning “yes” — with maybe the occasional “yeah” or “sure” — would be sufficient for English. The 1980s thought otherwise. These are the classic 80s affirmatives.Big timeCheeuh!For sureI kid you notMost definitelyNo doyWordYes way
Slang That Means “No”Once again, you might imagine the single monosyllable “no” could cover the full range of negatives, ’80s or otherwise. Not so much. Context matters!No can do: To say that something is not possible or you refuse to do somethingPsych: Used in the context of stating an untruth and then saying, “Psych!” to take it backTough: Used in a similar context as “too bad for you”Slang That Means “Good”Indicating approval of something is more complex than it might first appear. Calling a dog “a good boy,” a snowfall “a good amount” or a football tackle “a good hit” call for different usage of the word “good.” Slang often makes those differences explicit with more nuanced word choices.AwesomeBitchin’BodaciousExcellentFantabulousMost triumphantOutrageousRadicalRighteousSchweetStellarWicked
Slang That Means “More Of”When you’re looking for an intensifier to indicate “more of” something, or you want a more interesting word than “very,” you may choose one of these “mad awesome” variants of the ’80s.MadMajorMegaHellaTotallyOther Fundamental ’80s SlangRound out the basics with these slang terms from the 1980s.Like: “Like” has so many meanings that we’ve linked a whole page, but in the ’80s (and indeed today), “like” is most often used as a broad quotative, indicating that the following phrase (or image) reflects something significant about the speaker’s subject.Whoa: A surprised exclamationYo: A casual greeting
1980s InsultsEven as mainstream culture spoke of “morning in America” and “new optimism,” actual people in the 1980s outdid themselves in ways to call things bad. Here follow just a few of the ingenious insults of the 1980s.Airhead: Insulting name for a person, implying that they’re stupid or empty-headedBag your face: An insult calling a person uglyBarf bag: UglyBarf me out: Exclamation stating that something or someone disgusts youBite me: An aggressive rejectionBlar: DisgustBogus: Bad, undesirableChicken: CowardlyClydesdale: Someone large and unattractiveDip: A foolish personDitz: An unintelligent personHarsh: UnpleasantHeinous: Severely unpleasantLame: Uncool, boringMall-maggot: Young, unpleasant person who hangs out in a mallMental: CrazyMung: Disgusting thingNarbo: IdiotOoglay: Extremely uglySo ’87: Out of dateSpace cadet: Clueless, ditzy personSpaz: Lame, unattractiveWannabe: Someone who wants to achieve or be of a certain class but can’tWarped: Twisted, messed up
Praise in the ’80sThe ’80s were rich with ways to show approval, too. Multiple subcultures contributed, as well as a cross-cultural trend toward hyperbolic, multisyllabic, deliberately old-fashioned slang – like “bodacious” and “most triumphant” – to describe minor successes.Bad to the bone: Cool, stylishBetty: An attractive womanBFF: Acronym for Best Friend ForeverBrill: Positive, short for “brilliant”Choice: High-quality, attractiveClutch: Successful, especially at an important momentDeadly: Stylish, coolFave: Shortened form of “favorite”Fine: AttractiveFly: Looking goodFresh: Stylish, exciting and newFunky fresh: Stylish, exciting, especially in reference to musicGlam: Well-dressed, beautiful, short for “glamorous”Gnarly: Cool, badassHomeboy: Male friendHomegirl: Female friendLegit: Cool, real
1980s Society and CultureSlang exists in large part to comment on the dominant culture of its day. It provides a unique, up-to-date vocabulary that people can use to talk about phenomena in their daily lives in ways dictionary English doesn’t allow.Class and CultureThe 1980s were rich in terminology that identified and often satirized perceived class and cultural signifiers.Adult child: Someone’s child grown to adulthoodBimbette: A spoiled, unintelligent woman; a disparaging and misogynist termBoho: Short for “bohemian,” living an unsettled, artistic, countercultural lifestyleBoy toy: A casual boyfriendChocoholic: Someone very fond of chocolateCocooning: Staying at home, away from perceived threatsCouch potato: Someone sedentary, inclined to sit around watching TV rather than be activeDINK: Short for “double income, no kids,” a mildly pejorative term for usually upper middle class childless couplesHacker: Computer expert, especially someone adept at breaking computer securityJock: Athletic person, sometimes used pejoratively to imply lack of intelligenceNerd: Studious, intelligent person, often used pejoratively to imply lack of social life and physical strengthValley girl: Originally a reference to teenage girls from California’s San Fernando Valley, extended to mean young women who adopted California slang and fashion
Hip HopWhile the roots of hip hop extend earlier in the century, the 1980s represents the beginning of hip hop’s massive influence on mainstream culture and language. Easily the most linguistically important musical genre of the last 40 years, hip hop necessitates its own section, separate from other musical genres and subcultures.B-boy: Dancer, originally “break boy,” referring to breakdancingBeatbox: A person who can imitate the sounds of a synthesizer, sampler and/or turntable deck with their voiceBomb: GoodBombdiggity: Very goodCold lampin’: Relaxing at home, not doing muchDef: Good, originally short for “definitely”Dope: GoodDown: Aware of or willing to, often in the phrase “down with”Drop science: Share knowledgeHerb: A man without social skills or styleHood: One’s hometown or area, short for “neighborhood”Hype: Energy, excitement; can be used pejoratively to indicate someone capable of generating energy but with nothing substantial to back it upIll: Very goodJams: MusicPosse: Group of friendsScratch: To manipulate a record to musical effectStep off: Depending on context, can mean either “to depart” or “to engage in an activity with my group of friends”Stupid: Very much, extremelySucka MCs: Originally describing bad rappers, extended to mean anyone uncoolYo mama: A mild standardized insult, originally stylized version of “your mother”
70s And 80s Slang Terms
skinnyreal deal or truth ex “let me give you the skinny on the deal”
‘ Can You Dig It’Do you understand? ” Can you dig it man?”
‘Psyche’To trick someone. To B.S. someone. As if to psyche them out.
‘Bogue’Used to describe something offensive or an unrealistic idea. “That’s so Bogue” or “That’s Bogue” or “Bogue, man…”
The ‘Crib’ and going to the ‘Gig’The “crib” was going home or to someone else’s house, and “gig” was work or job.
‘Don’t Be Such A ‘spaz’A ‘spaz’ was someone that was accident prone,clutsy, or just acting stupid.
‘Dream On’a term used to get someone down to earth, or tell them they are being unrealistic about something, e.g. when someone would say, “I’m getting a brand new car!” you’d respond, “Yeah, right; dream on man!”
‘Good night, John-boy.’An annoying phrase popularized by the entire cast of “the Waltons” — except by John-boy” himself.
‘In Your Face!’I have succeeded in embarrassing or up-staging you
‘Lay A Gasser’to fart.
‘May The Force Be With You’The most popular line from one of the greatest movies of the 70s(and of all time) StarWars.
‘Phony’To describe an overbearing, “two faced”, or deceitful person or thing. Also: “Phony Baloney” which then became: “Baloney” which is an active form, used to instantly dismiss the phony person or utterance.
‘That’s Sick!’A Midwestern phrase in the late 70’s. To describe something odd or unusual. Not necessarily an person or object of distaste, but something suspect but also intriguing. “Sick!”
‘The Man’the man to me means any authority, corporations, police, government, they’re all the man tho first used in the 60’s by the hippies it live through the 70’s,80’s,90’s and still to this day
‘To The Max’!Take it to the maximum. The best it can be.
‘You Know’This was said at the end of nearly every sentence 🙂
‘You’re So Stunned’Meaning the person acted or said something stupid, dumb.
‘Your Mama’“Your Mama” was said a lot of my school, with also “Joe Mama.” With “Happy Days” that brought us the word “Nerd” which was VERY popular.
‘book’ Or ‘booking’To leave or run quickly, usually away from something.
‘bunny’a cute girl
‘catch You On The Flip~side’see you later
‘chill’ ‘be Cool’relax, man!
‘city’everything had “city” after it. That was cool-city.
‘fab’same as fabulous. ex: “that movie was fab”
‘feel Tha Funk’feel the music. get down wit da boogie.
‘fool That You Are’it is like saying “dork” or “goofball”. also like saying you know that you are a dork in a playing around tone or way.
‘get Down,’ Or, ‘boogie’dance
‘keep On Truckin’go w/ the flow
‘like’Beginning every sentence with “like”. “Like we went to the mall and like I saw him looking at me.”
‘looo-king Gooood!’a phrase popularized by the late Freddie Prinz Sr. on the tv sitcom “Chico and the man.”
‘putz’Jewish slang for someone who a constant screw up or foul up or just being a jerk
‘right On’ !!Right on–was a slang used for cool people when you agreed to something ex: Are you going to the club tonight–Right on!
‘to The Max.’Taken to an extreme. As in: That dude is so bitchen, to the max.
‘what It Is, What It Is’a greeting usually meaning,”hey”, “What’s up?”
…withEnding a question or sentence using the word “with” has been used in the scandinavian communities of the mid-west since the early 70’s. I remember getting flack from people we visited out east, in Boston, during the bicentenial when I used it that way. The most common questions I remember asking are; “ya wanna go with?” or “can I go with?”