16 Popular Words That Changed Meaning In 2016

Like any other period in time, 2016 was a year that produced many new slang words. Some of these words were more like acronyms – AF and TBH are probably the biggest examples of those – while others were words that we’ve always known about, but they now mean something different. I don’t know where new slang words come from (although I suspect it is a group of Cool Internet Teens influencing the world), but I do know that once they get picked up, they can be hard to shake. Remember when we all started saying bae and figured it would die out quickly? It’s still very much here.

There has definitely been at least one moment this year where you’ve said one of these words, and your parents have said something like, “What? What does that even mean? That doesn’t make sense.” Last year, we were introduced to the sexual form of “daddy” and some less offensive words, like “lit” and “tea” and “bop.” This year is just as interesting, just as random, and just as slightly confusing, even though you never want to admit you’re confused because dong so automatically makes you a boring mom. What parts of the English language did the Internet take over this year? Here are some words that changed meaning in 2016:

1. Goat


What it used to mean: A small animal.

What it means now: GOAT is actually an acronym for “Greatest Of All Time,” which I feel like is pretty self-explanatory (like saying, “Michael Phelps is the goat”).


2. Cancelled


What it used to mean:  Ending something before it was supposed to be finished.

What it means now: Sort of the same thing, but in a slightly different way. Instead of saying “the class was cancelled,” you would say, “Did you hear what Jennifer Lawrence said? She’s cancelled.” So, it basically means that someone, or something, is over because it suddenly sucks. Makes sense?


3. Narrative


What it used to mean:  A spoken or written account of an event, basically a story.

What it means now: Uh, kind of the same thing, but now when something is inconvenient for us, we can say something like, “I would very much like to be excluded from this narrative” and anyone who knows anything will know you mean you’re over it. Thanks, Taylor Swift.


4. Trash


What it used to mean:  Garbage.

What it means now: It means garbage, but, like, not literal garbage. Just someone or something that sucks. Like saying, “Did you see Suicide Squad? It was garbage.”


5. Snatched


What it used to mean:  To grab something from someone else, to take something in a rude way.

What it means now: It basically means “on fleek” or “slay.” If you love someone’s makeup, you would say, “Your eyeliner is snatched.” You know?


6. Fire


What it used to mean:  A few definitions: burning fire that can destroy things, firing someone from a job as in letting them go, and releasing weapons or shooting a gun.

What it means now: Something awesome. To be honest, you might have used “fire” as a slang term before 2016, but it really blew up this year.


7. Doing the most.

doing the most

What it used to mean:  I don’t think anyone used this as a phrase before now?

What it means now: Okay, so it’s not a word and it’s more of a phrase, but it’s worth including because it’s so popular. It basically means acting over-dramatic, doing more than you ever needed to do, saying more than you needed to say, and getting a little bit too passionate about something. Like, if someone really wanted to impress bae and went out and spent $10,000 on them, you could say, “they’re doing THE MOST.”


8. Extra


What it used to mean:  Adding more to an existing number.

What it means now: Similar to “doing the most,” extra can mean over-dramatic, unnecessary, inappropriate, trying too hard.


9. Curved


What it used to mean:  Something bent in the form of a curve.

What it means now: Rejecting or standing up to someone. You would say, “I curved that guy who was trying to flirt with me.” This is another word that might have been around before 2016, but it definitely got really popular more recently.


10. Receipts


What it used to mean:  A copy of what you purchased and how much you spent from the store.

What it means now: Evidence of something someone did or said, like if someone tweeted something awful, then denied it, but you took a screenshot and can prove it happened. So you say, “I have the receipts.”


11. Savage


What it used to mean:  Something fierce and violent that is hard to control.

What it means now: This one varies. It could mean something badass and cool, or it could refer to someone who doesn’t give an eff. They’ll say what they want even knowing it will hurt someone’s feelings. They’ll stand up for themselves in a fierce way. They’ll tear others down to get what they want. Like if someone says something bold on Twitter and you say, “Wow, that’s savage.”


12. Dab


What it used to mean:  Pressing a small amount of something onto something else. Like when you dab water on a stain.

What it means now: It could be referring to a popular dance move from the past year, or it could be referring to the way a girl applies foundation with a makeup sponge. Probably the first one, tbh.


13. Glow up

glow up

What it used to mean:  “Glow” on its own means something shining and bright. “Glow up” was never a big phrase.

What it means now: Someone who starts at the bottom, and then transforms into someone more confident and beautiful. It’s basically a word for a dramatic makeover.


14. Face beat

face beat

What it used to mean:  Uh, probably assault.

What it means now: Having your makeup done and then realizing it came out AMAZING. Or just applying a lot of makeup until you basically look like a different person. Either way, it’s a good thing.


15. Fam


What it used to mean:  It was short for family.

What it means now: Your close friends and family members.


16. Snake


What it used to mean:  A slithering animal.

What it means now: A liar who acts fake but then does horrible things in order to make themselves look good. Thank you, Kim Kardashian.

Which 2016 slang word was your favorite? What did we forget to include? Share in the comments!

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