50 Essential American Slang Words You’ll Hear and Use Everyday
American slang can make things so tricky for English learners and even native speakers.
It’s everyday language from real-life in the U.S, but you don’t always learn it in class.
Rather, you would learn slang by hearing it from someone else in your daily life.
Here’s a rundown on some of the most common American slang so you can avoid confusing situations in American English conversations.
- Common American Slang Words
- Popular American Slang Phrases
- Region-specific Slang
- Resources for Learning American Slang Words
Common American Slang Words
1. Awesome (Adjective)
Awesome is such a popular slang word in American English and all over the world. You’ll hear everyone from the young to old saying it. When you use the word awesome, you’re expressing that you think something is wonderful or amazing. It can be used in a sentence or it could be used in a one-word reply.
“What did you think of ‘The Wolf of Wall Street?’”
“It was awesome! I loved it!”
2. Cool (Adjective)
Cool like awesome means “great” or “fantastic.” It also shows that you’re okay with an idea. Be careful, the normal meaning of cool means a little cold so you have to listen to it in context to understand what’s being said.
“What did you think of my new boyfriend?”
“I liked him. He seemed like a cool guy!” (He seemed like a nice guy).
3. Beat (Adjective)
In normal terms, beat would be used as a verb meaning “to win” (ex. Liverpool beat Manchester United) or “to hit” (ex. “Marko, stop beating your brother”). However, it means something completely different in slang or everyday English. If you hear your friend saying I’m beat, it means he or she is very tired or exhausted.
“You look beat, what have you been doing?”
“I’ve been helping my dad in the yard all morning.”
4. Wheels (Noun)
We know there are many things that have wheels—a car, a motorbike, a bike and even a wheelbarrow. But when somebody refers to their wheels, they are talking about their car.
“Thanks! I had it fixed up at the auto shop.”
5. Amped (Adjective)
If you’re amped about something, you’re super excited or you can’t wait for something to happen. It can also mean you’re really determined and you want something to happen. With this meaning, you can also replace amped with pumped. In other words, you’re full of adrenaline!
“I can’t wait to see Beyonce live!”
“Me too, I’m amped.”
6. Babe (Noun)
If you refer to someone as a babe, it means that you think they’re hot and attractive. Be careful though, you should only use this when speaking to another person and not the babe because they may get offended.
“Oh man, Justin Timberlake is such a babe, don’t you think?”
“No, he looks like a little boy. I prefer Johnny Depp—now that’s a real man!”
7. Bust (Verb)/Busted (Adjective)
If you bust someone, you’ve caught them doing something they shouldn’t be doing/saying/hiding. “The police bust people every day” translates to “they catch all the bad guys and charge them or put them in prison.”
“There were two kids who were busted cheating in their exams!”
“Really? What happened?”
“I’m not sure, but they’ll definitely be punished.”
8. Ex (Noun)
Usually, if you hear a friend referring to their ex, they’re referring to their old boyfriend or girlfriend who they no longer date. But if you put it with another noun, it can mean something that used to be. For example, ex-boss means your boss from before, who is no longer your boss.
“My ex always sends me messages on Facebook. It’s really annoying!”
“Maybe you should block her? Or delete her as your friend.”
9. Geek (Noun)
Depending on how you use this word will depend on whether you’re being nice or not! If you refer to a person as a geek, it’s referring to a person in a negative way because they like to study too much or spend too much time on the computer instead of socializing. But if you call your friend a geek, it could be in a fun more playful way.
“Let’s go to Ted’s house party tonight! Everyone’s going to be there!”
“I wish I could, but I have to study for my finals!”
“Ah, man, you’re such a geek!”
“I know. But if I don’t pass, Coach Jones is going to kick me off the team!”
10. Looker (Noun)
If somebody says that you’re a looker, you should definitely be flattered—they are paying you the ultimate compliment and saying that they think you’re good-looking. They’ll probably never say it to your face, but you might hear it from someone else.
“That Marni girl is a real looker don’t you think?”
“She’s a nice girl but not my type!”
11. In (Adjective)
You probably already know the meaning of in as a preposition. It’s one of the first things you probably learned in your English class. But it can be used to mean something completely different—it means to be in fashion or trending at the moment. Things that are in at the moment may not be in in a month—why? Because trends always change!
“Jordan, why do you keep listening to that music? It’s awful!”
“Mom, you don’t know anything. It’s totally in right now!”
12. Sick (Adjective)
Cough cough sneeze sneeze… no, not this kind of sick. If your buddy says that the party was sick, he’s saying he thought it was really cool, awesome or the best. In this case, it has a similar meaning to the word awesome. You probably will only hear teenagers and college students saying this—oh and maybe those Californian surfers!
“You missed a sick party last night!”
“Oh, man, I knew I should have gone!”
13. Epic Fail (Noun)
The word epic means “huge” and you know what the word fail already means. Put the two words together and that’s what it is—a “big failure” or “complete disaster/failure.” You’d use this noun when something hasn’t gone the right way as expected and it’s used to exaggerate the idea of failing or doing something wrong.
“Wow, the school basketball team lost the game by 30 points.”
“Yeah, epic fail!”
14. Ripped (Adjective)
In normal everyday English, ripped means “torn.” You can rip your jeans or a piece of paper, but in slang, it’s got nothing to do with that. If a person is ripped (usually men/guys, but not always) it means they have great muscles and bodies—probably because they work out a lot in the gym or are into sports.
“Dude, you’re so ripped! What’s your secret?”
“Gym workout for two hours a day!”
15. Dunno (Contraction)
Simply speaking, dunno means “I don’t know.” It’s a quicker and lazier way of saying it and it’s very popular among young people. Do be careful who you say this to. If you say it to someone in a higher position than you, it could come across as rude. So to play it safe just use it around people your own age or younger.
“What are you doing for Spring Break?”
“Dunno, I was thinking of traveling to Mexico again but I’m not sure. You?”
16. Loser (Noun)
In a game, we have winners and we have losers, but if your friend says a person is a loser, it doesn’t mean they lost a game or a competition. It means that they don’t like him or her because of their actions and behavior.
“Ray is such a loser for breaking up with Rebecca.”
“Yeah, I know, he’s never going to find a girl as good as her!”
17. Salty (Adjective)
It’s not just for describing food flavor. Salty is also used to describe an upset or bitter person. This slang became popularized by the internet, so you’ll probably encounter it often in social media posts.
“Oh wow, Jessica was two points away from getting a 100 on the test.”
“All because she forgot to write her name. She’s so salty about it.”
18. Shady (Adjective)
When you think of someone suspicious, you might imagine them lurking around in the shadows where they can’t be seen. Shady means just that—suspicious. It could be used to describe a person, event or object that seems untrustworthy.
“Every time Jim sees me, he runs away. What’s his problem?”
“He’s acting pretty shady. Maybe he broke something of yours again.”
19. Corny (Adjective)
When someone or something is being corny, it doesn’t mean they’re filled with golden delicious kernels. Corny is used to describe something that is overly emotional or cliché (unoriginal) to the point that it’s funny. It’s slang that’s often used for movies, particularly romantic ones, that use a lot of typical dialogue or stories.
“John told me that my smile is as bright as the sun.”
“Wow, that is so corny. Where did he get that line from?”
20. Freebie (Noun)
Everyone loves free stuff, so why not create slang that means just that? A freebie is anything that you get at no cost. You’ll probably find it useful in stores or shops that generously offer little gifts or samples.
“Hey, where did you get that lipstick?”
“I got it as a freebie after buying perfume from the mall.”
21. Down (Adjective)
When you’re down for something, that means you’re able and willing to do it. This slang is commonly used among friends who are figuring out what to do. It’s similar to the other slang in.
“What should we do on Saturday?”
“I’m down for bowling. We haven’t gone in a while.”
22. Bummer (Noun)
If something was disappointing or unfulfilling, then it was a total bummer. You can also use this slang as an interjection (ex. “Bummer!”) to mean something like, “That stinks!”
“The concert last night was such a bummer.”
“Yeah. Every song sounded awful!”
23. Nuts (Adjective)
Nuts are delicious and nutritious food items, but their name can also be used as slang. Someone who is nuts is crazy, and someone who is nuts about something is obsessed with that thing (ex. “She’s nuts about dogs”). The slang can be used in a playful or non-serious manner, but usually, it has a negative meaning.
“I’m going to go sky-diving in Hawaii this summer.”
“Are you nuts? You’re terrified of heights! You’re going to have a heart attack!”
24. Flake (Noun)/Flaky (Adjective)/Flake On (Verb)
Snowflakes and coconut flakes are nice things, but a human flake is not. Use the slang flake to describe an unreliable person who doesn’t follow through on their promises. You can also describe the same person as flaky or that they flake on whatever they’re supposed to do (ex. “She’s definitely going to flake on our meeting”).
“Looks like we’re all here, except for Darren.”
“Even after he promised he would come. What a flake!”
Popular American Slang Phrases
25. To Hang Out (Verb)
If someone asks you where you usually hang out, they want to know in which place you prefer to be when you have free time. And if your friend asks you if you want to hang out with them, they’re asking you if you’re free and want to spend some time together. And what about if you ask your friend what they’re doing and they just answer hanging out? It means that they are free and not doing anything special.
“Hey, it’s great to see you again.”
“And you. We should hang out sometime.”
“I would love that. I’ll call you soon.”
26. To Chill Out (Verb)
Everybody loves to chill out but what does it mean? It simply means to relax. Usually, it can be used with or without the word “out,” and if you’re speaking with an American English speaker, they’ll definitely understand. But if someone tells you to chill out, it’s not positive. It means that they think you’re overreacting to a situation or getting stressed about silly little things.
“Hey Tommy, what are you guys doing?”
“We’re just chilling (out). Do you want to come round?”
“Sure. I’m stressing about the math test. I need to chill out a bit.”
27. To Have a Blast (Verb)
The English word blast normally refers to a big explosion and it’s a phrase that we could often see or hear in the news that concerns bombs. But if you use this among your friends, it’s a lot more positive. It means that something is great or you had an amazing and fun time.
“Thanks for inviting me to your party last night, I had a blast.”
“Thanks for coming and I’m glad you enjoyed it.”
28. To Have a Crush [on Somebody] (Verb)
To have a crush on somebody is a great feeling. It means that you’re attracted to somebody and would like them to be more than just your friend. And if somebody has a crush on you, well it’s the same—they like you in a more intimate way. Instead of saying have a crush, you can also just say crushing on—it means the same thing, but it’s usually used among the younger generation and teenagers.
“Oooh, you’re so crushing on Michael right now!”
“I am not! We’re just friends!”
“Liar! I can tell you like him.”
29. To Dump [Somebody] (Verb)
If you dump somebody, you’re probably going to break their heart. If you dump your boyfriend or girlfriend, it means you stop having a romantic relationship with them for some reason. And if you’re dumped, it means that somebody doesn’t want to date you anymore. Don’t worry, there are plenty more fish in the sea! (There are many more great single people out there to date).
“What’s wrong with Amy? She looked sad all day.”
“Didn’t you hear? Alex dumped her last night!”
“Wow, I’m surprised. They always looked so happy together!”
30. Hooked [on Something] (Adjective)
If you’re hooked on something or just hooked, it means that you’re addicted to something and you can’t get enough. You can be hooked on chocolate, basketball, a new TV show or something more dangerous like smoking (which is not cool by the way).
“What did you think about the new sitcom with Seth Rogen?”
“Loved it. I’m hooked already!”
31. Rip-off (Noun)/To Rip Off (Verb)
If you find a simple t-shirt and the price tag says $80, you’d be shocked, right? That t-shirt is a complete rip-off, which means that it is way too expensive for what it is. And if a person rips you off, they’re cheating you out of money and charging you a lot more than you should be paying. For example, tourists often get ripped off by locals because the locals want to make money and the tourists have no idea.
“How much did you buy your wheels for bro?”
“Dude, you were so ripped off. This car’s worth only half of that!”
32. To Do [Someone] a Solid (Verb)
Doing a solid means you’re carrying out a favor for someone. In popular usage, it’s often implied (suggested) that the favor is suspicious or illegal in some way.
“Hey, can you do me a solid and give me $50?”
“What do you need that much money for?”
“I want to buy the new game that just came out. I’ll pay you back!”
33. To Wrap Up [Something] (Verb)
What’s the last step in preparing a present? Wrapping it up with a nice pretty ribbon, of course! To wrap up means to finish something, usually an event like a meeting. You can also tell someone to wrap it up to urge them to hurry up and complete whatever they were doing.
“Hey, can we use this room? We’re having a meeting at 12 PM.”
“Okay. We’re going to wrap up our study session in a few minutes.”
34. To Pig Out (Verb)
We all know what pigs are best at doing: eating! For a person to pig out means they’re acting just like the animal—eating food quickly and passionately. It’s the perfect slang to use whenever a hungry person and a lot of food are involved together.
“I can’t wait to go to the new buffet restaurant.”
“Yeah, I’m starving and ready to pig out!”
35. To Ride Shotgun (Verb)
Riding shotgun sounds strange, but all it means is that you’re riding in the passenger seat of a car, right next to the driver. This slang can be explained with a bit of history: Back when horse-drawn coach vehicles were used, it was common for a bodyguard with a shotgun to sit next to the driver as protection. Nowadays, riding shotgun is typically considered a benefit. When a group of people is being offered a ride in someone’s car, you can expect someone to shout “I call shotgun!” to claim the passenger seat before everyone else.
“My backseats are a bit dirty. You can ride shotgun instead.”
“Sure! I’ll help you navigate to my address too.”
36. My Bad (Phrase)
This slang is a casual way to say “I’m sorry.” However, keep in mind that it can also seem insincere or teasing in certain contexts. It can work fine for minor or even laughable mistakes that aren’t worth much trouble, but it may not be the best thing to say for more serious errors.
“Hey! You spilled your drink on me!”
“Oh, my bad. Here, take my napkin.”
37. No Sweat (Phrase)
When something isn’t a problem or doesn’t cause any difficulties, then it’s no sweat. Whether it’s doing a favor for someone or having to deal with a little trouble, use this slang to say the matter is nothing worth sweating about.
“I’m sorry, but can you carry this box for me?”
“No sweat. I can even carry more for you if you’d like.”
38. Break a Leg (Phrase)
No, this isn’t a command or threat to have someone plan out a trip to the hospital. This silly slang is just a fun way to wish someone good luck. It’s often said before performances by actors and musicians. Remember to use this slang in the right context though!
“Today’s my first time performing in front of a live audience!”
“I’ll be in the front row to watch you. Break a leg!”
39. I Feel You (Phrase)
No hands or touching is involved with this slang. When you say “I feel you” to someone, it means you understand them and what they’re going through. It’s usually used when the person you’re talking to is having a hard time or is upset about something.
“Ugh, I’m so nervous about my dentist appointment.”
“I feel you. The dentist scares me more than any other doctor.”
40. Mad (Adverb)
No, you aren’t saying you’re angry or frustrated. Mad is a common slang word in New York that means “many” or “very.” So, in the examples used for the slang ripped off, you can say the items were mad expensive. And by the way, while you can combine mad with emotions, it won’t really work if you say you’re mad mad.
“What movie should we watch this weekend?”
“How about that new comedy film? I heard it was mad funny.”
“Don’t laugh too hard, or else you might spill the popcorn.”
41. Wicked (Adverb)
Wicked normally means “bad” or “evil.” But as a slang used often in New England states, wicked means “very” or “excellent.” It works a lot like the slang mad in that it usually pairs up with an adjective. This slang is also used commonly in the UK, where it has a similar positive meaning.
“Have you heard? Thomas is going to college with a full scholarship!”
“Of course, he would! He’s wicked smart.”
42. Hella (Adverb)
Possibly a contraction of “hell of,” hella is slang used in California. Like the New York slang mad and New England wicked, hella also means “very” or “extremely.” Sometimes, it can also mean “a lot of.”
“Where should we eat?”
“How about that restaurant? Their steak special is hella delicious.”
43. Janky (Adjective)
Used commonly in Northeastern states like New Hampshire, janky is slang for describing items that are very bad quality. It can also be used for people who have unlikable or strange qualities. The word itself is funny to say, so you might already get the idea of what it means just from hearing it.
“Tom is selling his old bike. He said he fixed it up so that it’s almost brand new.”
“That bike looks so janky. It might break as soon as you sit on it.”
44. Rad (Adjective)
Popular in California, rad is slang that means cool or awesome. It’s short for the word “radical.” If you’ve ever watched movies that feature laidback Californians or surfers with long hair, then you may have heard this slang.
“Did you go to the party this weekend?”
“Yeah, it was totally rad. The food and music were great.”
45. Y’all (Contraction)
In southern states like Texas, you’ll probably hear a lot of folks saying y’all instead of “you all” when they’re talking to a group of people. If you’re familiar with cowboys, then you probably already know this! While the slang is most popular in the south, it’s also used all around America as a casual and friendly way to address others.
“It’s pretty late. Bob and Sarah already fell asleep.”
“I’m tired, too. Let’s go to bed now so we can wake up early tomorrow.”
“Sounds good to me. See y’all in the morning.”
46. Brick (Adjective)
If you’ve ever touched a brick when the weather is chilly, then you’ll know how cold that little square rock can get. In New York, brick basically means “very cold.” It’s the perfect word to use during the winter season when stepping outside is enough to make you shiver!
“I’ll be going now!”
“Wait, don’t forget to take your coat! It’s brick outside.”
47. Catawampus (Adjective)
This funny slang is used in midland and Southern states to describe something that’s crooked or diagonal. It can also be used when something isn’t going the way it should.
“Did you hear about the car accident last night?”
“Yeah, the car smashed into the poor stop sign and it’s catawampus now.”
48. Ope (Interjection)
When someone bumps into you by accident, you’d probably expect to hear “oops” or “whoops,” right? Well, in Midwestern states, you’ll probably hear the word ope instead. It means the same thing!
“Ope! Sorry I nearly hit you there, Hank.”
“No sweat. Just be more careful.”
49. Fixin’ To (Verb)
Fixin’ is an accented way of saying the word fixing. When you’re fixin’ to do something, that means you’re getting ready to or are planning to do it. This expression is used often in the South.
“The grand opening for the mall is in three hours. Can you make it?”
“I’m fixin’ to finish up my work early so I can get there on time!”
50. Bless Your Heart (Phrase)
This is a common saying in Southern states and it can have two meanings. It can mean the speaker is being friendly and wishing you well for doing something nice. However, more often, it’s used as an insult toward a person who acts foolishly. It can be confusing to figure out, especially since the slang is often said in a kind way. If someone ever says this phrase to you, think first if you may have done something silly before accepting the “compliment.”
“I have $100. The steak is $20 apiece. Wow, so I can get six steaks!”
“Bless your heart. You might want to check your math again.”
Resources for Learning American Slang Words
While we can’t cover every single American slang word in English, there are lots of places to find them online.
There are plenty of videos on YouTube that can help you with must-know slang, such as these:
If you want to learn American slang at your own pace (instead of stumbling on them mid-conversation!), you can try watching modern movies and TV shows or even casual American vlogs. They can be found online and since they are made for native English speakers, you can hear and see slang in real action.
So even if you aren’t around English speakers, you can still practice slang by yourself with English media! But if you’re having trouble following and understanding all the English you hear, there are also language learning tools that can help you learn slang straight from media content.
For example, the FluentU website and app (iOS and Android) lets you study English vocabulary and expressions from videos made for and by native speakers, like music videos and movie trailers. Each clip has interactive subtitles and a video dictionary that reliably translate the words you hear, including slang and idioms. You can then review everything you learn through flashcards and quizzes, where you can type or speak your answers.
Here are some additional resources for American slang:
The University of Massachusetts’ list of American slang: An alphabetical list of common slang words and phrases with their meanings. Some of it is specific to the Northeast region of the U.S.
Dave Sperling’s ESL Slang Page: A comprehensive, alphabetical list of slang, which also has examples. Some of the slang is not so common.
Commonly-used American Slang from Manythings.org: This also has a comprehensive list. Unlike Dave Sperling’s ESL slang page, this page lets you see the example first. So you can guess the meaning first, before you actually see the definition.
So there you have it—these are a few of the most common everyday American slang phrases you could hear among your English-speaking friends.
But as interesting as it is to pick up slang, do be careful where and when to use them. Slang is mainly used around your friends (buddies) and people you’re familiar with (family etc).
It would be a shame if you didn’t get the job because you used slang talk—that would be an epic fail!