Here are 5 Gen Z words you must understand to navigate the modern internet

·4 min read

Have you ever found yourself drifting through the internet, and on your journey to the next great distraction, you stumbled upon a slang term you don’t quite understand?

Never fear — your Gen Z dictionary is here. We’ll be breaking down the essential elements of Gen Z culture and exploring where these phrases originated.

Decode and demystify Gen Z's latest online slang terms with In The Know's new glossary.

To start, here are five words you need to know to navigate the internet right now.

Bestie

You might think this just means best friend, right? Wrong. It’s literally anyone you’ve ever interacted with before in your life.

Bestie, as a slang term, has been around for a while, but it was recently popularized by TikTok user @TikToshh, whose infectious videos declare “bestie vibes only” over and over again.

From there, it caught on and became a term of endearment you can use to describe a random person on the street or that one friend who feels more like a soulmate. 

Sus

Sus is just a quicker way to say suspicious. If you’re being sus, you’re being shady and sneaky. 

It was first recorded in England in the 1930s and later became proper British slang.

“Sus” recently became popular with players of the video game Among Us, in which the objective is to identify the player who is the imposter — whose goal is to kill the rest of the team. Pretty sus, if you ask me.

If it’s taking more than an hour for your food delivery to get here, that’s sus. If your date wants to go for drinks and not dinner, that’s sus. What are your intentions? Don’t be suspicious.

Yeet

Yeet! Yeet is a word you’d use to express excitement. 

It originated on Vine way back in 2014 P.T. (that’s pre-TikTok) as a dance. A video of a boy named Lil Meatball doing the dance went massively viral.

Now it’s just something you yell — a regular old interjection.

I use it to celebrate a good move or a job well done. You made the basket? You got an Instagram follower? Yeet. And so on.  

I recommend screaming it regardless of your surroundings because it really is just that powerful of a word.

Sheesh

Sheesh is, I would say, the new yeet. The difference is that you’d typically say “sheesh” to describe someone else’s actions, not your own. 

It can be a bit tricky for outsiders because you typically think of the word “sheesh” as an expression of frustration.

According to Merriam Webster, the word has been in use since the 1900s to “express disappointment, annoyance or surprise” — but in the 2000s and 2010s, Black Americans began using it as a way to hype up their friends. Now, on TikTok, people say it in response to an accomplishment. 

It’s another word I recommend saying in a funny voice. Harmonize with your friends. If you’re not out there making sounds that only dolphins can hear, you’re not sharing with enough power.

Rent-free

If something is living rent-free in your head, it means you’re spending way too much time thinking about it.

It seems to have originated from a random quote from advice columnist Ann Landers in 1999. She said, “Hanging onto resentment is letting someone you despise live rent-free in your head.” 

The phrase became popular recently on Black Twitter, where it describes something you just can’t get off your mind. It then spawned tons of TikTok trends and eventually just became part of everyday vernacular.

For something to be truly living rent-free in your head, it has to be bothering you. It has to be unwelcoming, like a ghost that’s haunting you. 

That’s all for today, but be sure to check out the In The Know Glossary for a full rundown of all the terms, trends and celebrities you need to know to navigate the Gen Z internet. 

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