Taking a nostalgic trip back to the vibrant ’80s? Whether you’re writing a retro story, reminiscing about the good old days, or just intrigued by the colorful language of the past, it’s enthralling to delve into the slang terms, words, and their meanings from the era of neon, leg warmers, and arcade games. So, without further ado, here’s our comprehensive guide showcasing a curated list of iconic ’80s slang, phrases, and terms that defined a generation:
- Meaning: Something that’s really cool or awesome.
- Origin: Shortened form of “radical”.
- Usage: “That skateboard trick was totally rad!”
Gag me with a spoon
- Meaning: An expression of disgust or disbelief.
- Origin: Part of the Valley Girl jargon popularized in the ’80s.
- Usage: “She wore that to the prom? Gag me with a spoon!”
- Meaning: Awesome or cool.
- Origin: From surfing culture, referring to the “tube” of a wave.
- Usage: “That wave was totally tubular, dude!”
- Meaning: Disgusting or dirty.
- Origin: Likely a variation of “grotesque”.
- Usage: “Ew, that old sandwich is grody to the max.”
- Meaning: Used to indicate that something just said was a joke.
- Origin: A playful form of deception.
- Usage: “You’ve got something on your shirt! … Psyche!”
- Meaning: Extremely or very.
- Origin: Old English in origin, but in the ’80s it meant “really good” or “cool”.
- Usage: “That concert was wicked awesome!”
- Meaning: To state the obvious or something that is a well-known fact.
- Origin: Variation of “duh”, used to mock a statement of the obvious.
- Usage: “We need air to breathe.” “No duh!”
- Meaning: Very much or definitely.
- Origin: Popularized by the Valley Girl speech style.
- Usage: “I am like, totally excited about the party!”
- Meaning: Not cool, or unfair.
- Origin: Originally meant counterfeit or fake, transitioned to mean something disappointing.
- Usage: “He can’t come to the gig? That’s totally bogus.”
Barf me out
- Meaning: Expression of disgust.
- Origin: Variation of “gross me out” or “gag me”.
- Usage: “You’re dating him? Barf me out!”
To the max
- Meaning: As much as possible, to the fullest extent.
- Origin: Short for “to the maximum”.
- Usage: “I am tired to the max.”
- Meaning: Agreement or affirmation.
- Origin: A shortening of the phrase “My word is my bond”.
- Usage: “That movie was great.” “Word.”
- Meaning: Calm down or relax.
- Origin: A figurative pill one could take to calm down.
- Usage: “Take a chill pill, it’s not a big deal.”
- Meaning: An exclamation of joy or excitement.
- Origin: Popularized by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
- Usage: “Cowabunga, dude!”
- Meaning: Cool or excellent.
- Origin: Possibly an acronym for “Pretty Hot And Tempting”.
- Usage: “That new bike is phat!”
Awesome to the max
- Meaning: Extremely good.
- Origin: Combining “awesome” and “to the max”.
- Usage: “This game is awesome to the max!”
- Meaning: A close friend.
- Origin: Playful and endearing term likening a friend to food (a skillet of homestyle food).
- Usage: “Hey, home skillet, want to hang out?”
- Meaning: New, cool, and stylish.
- Origin: Describing something that’s new and not stale.
- Usage: “Those sneakers are fresh!”
What’s the 411?
- Meaning: What’s the information or gossip?
- Origin: 411 was the number for directory assistance.
- Usage: “Hey, what’s the 411 on the party tonight?”
- Meaning: A way to say goodbye.
- Origin: Play on “see you later” with a nod to the skating culture.
- Usage: “I’ve got to go. Later skater!”
- Meaning: A term to address someone, typically male but can be used universally.
- Origin: Old term for a dandy or well-dressed man, popularized as a casual address in the ’80s.
- Usage: “Dude, check this out!”
- Meaning: Insulted.
- Origin: Referring to the sensation of a burn as an insult.
- Usage: “He said that about your dress? You got burned.”
- Meaning: Very or huge.
- Origin: From the Italian word for “world”.
- Usage: “That’s a mondo big sandwich.”
- Meaning: To leave quickly.
- Origin: Referring to a motor’s speed.
- Usage: “I’ve got to motor if I want to make the movie.”
Have a cow
- Meaning: Overreact to something.
- Origin: Unknown, though popularized by Bart Simpson.
- Usage: “Don’t have a cow, man!”
- Meaning: Of high quality, cool.
- Origin: Referring to something as being a top pick or choice.
- Usage: “That new track is choice.”
- Meaning: Someone who is hyperactive or clumsy.
- Origin: Short for “spastic”.
- Usage: “I can’t believe I tripped again, I’m such a spaz.”
- Meaning: Excellent or cool.
- Origin: A more intense form of “bitching”, which was a complaint.
- Usage: “This new car is bitchin’.”
- Meaning: Someone who dresses in high-end or fashion-forward attire, often associated with the upper class.
- Origin: Short for “preparatory”, referencing preparatory schools.
- Usage: “He’s so preppy with that polo and khakis.”
Take a chill pill
- Meaning: Relax or calm down.
- Origin: Figurative term suggesting a pill to induce relaxation.
- Usage: “He’s so worked up over the game. Someone tell him to take a chill pill.”
- Meaning: Something that’s really cool or awesome.
- Origin: A reverse meaning, where a typically negative word is used positively.
- Usage: “That leather jacket is bad, man!”
- Meaning: A retort, similar to “go away” or “stop it.”
- Origin: A more playful and less aggressive version of telling someone off.
- Usage: “Oh, you think you can beat me at the game? Bite me!”
- Meaning: Attractive or admirable.
- Origin: Combination of “bold” and “audacious”.
- Usage: “She’s a bodacious babe!”
- Meaning: To leave or run away quickly.
- Origin: Possibly from the idea of setting a new record, as in a record book.
- Usage: “We’re late, we need to book it to the cinema!”
- Meaning: A follower or fan of the band “The Grateful Dead”.
- Origin: Derived from the name of the band “The Grateful Dead”.
- Usage: “He’s been to over 50 shows; such a deadhead!”
- Meaning: Cool, stylish, or attractive.
- Origin: Describing something that’s so cool it’s “off the ground” or “flying”.
- Usage: “Those shoes are fly!”
- Meaning: To become overly excited or enthusiastic about a subject, usually technology or fandom.
- Origin: “Geek” was used to describe circus performers. Over time, it was used for someone who is an enthusiast or expert in a niche area.
- Usage: “I totally geeked out over the new Star Wars movie.”
- Meaning: A way to say goodbye or that you’re leaving.
- Origin: Shortened form of “I’m out of here”.
- Usage: “This party’s boring. I’m outtie.”
- Meaning: A person, especially a teenager, who spends a lot of time at shopping malls.
- Origin: From “mall” and “rat” implying frequenting a place like rats often do.
- Usage: “She’s always at the mall every weekend, such a mallrat.”
- Meaning: Someone pretending to be something they are not, especially in music, fashion, and sports.
- Origin: Short for “poseur”, from the French word for “to pose”.
- Usage: “He’s not really into skateboarding, he’s just a poser.”
- Meaning: Cool or awesome.
- Origin: Means morally right or justifiable.
- Usage: “That was a righteous move on the skateboard!”
- Meaning: Suspicious or shady.
- Origin: Unknown, possibly from “sketch” meaning a brief written or spoken account.
- Usage: “I wouldn’t go there, that place looks sketchy.”
- Meaning: A type of denim that’s faded with a marbled appearance.
- Origin: The technique involves washing denim with pumice in a rotating drum.
- Usage: “I got a new pair of stonewashed jeans.”
- Meaning: Cool or awesome.
- Origin: Variation of “totally dope”.
- Usage: “The concert last night was tope.”
- Meaning: Relax or do nothing.
- Origin: Likening a person to a vegetable, which is inactive.
- Usage: “I’m just going to veg out and watch movies all day.”
Where’s the beef?
- Meaning: Asking what the substance or content is, especially if something is lacking.
- Origin: From a Wendy’s commercial where an elderly lady looks at a competing hamburger and asks, “Where’s the beef?”
- Usage: “This essay is all fluff, no substance. Where’s the beef?”
- Meaning: Transformed into or made to resemble a yuppie (young urban professional).
- Origin: From “yuppie” and the suffix “-fied”.
- Usage: “The neighborhood has become so yuppified recently.”
- Meaning: Lost in thought or daydreaming, not paying attention.
- Origin: Possibly from “in the zone” but in a less focused sense.
- Usage: “Sorry, I missed what you said. I was zoned out.”
That’s it for our list of slang phrases from the ’80s. We hope you’ve found this nostalgic journey enlightening. While the world of slang is ever-evolving, these ’80s terms have stood the test of time and are fondly remembered. If you think we’ve missed any iconic slang from the ’80s, do let us know in the comments below. Keep reliving the rad times!👍😊
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