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Go from ‘Basic’ to ‘Fire’! Learn Gen Z Phrases and Slang

A language glow-up: how to go from basic to fire in minutes with our guide to English Millennial and Gen Z slang words and phrases

If learning a whole new language isn’t hard enough, it’s made even more difficult with the constant introduction of new words and phrases. New words appear all the time, often long before they make it into the dictionary. This process has accelerated by digitally native generations that are now able to communicate and share with the world online, allowing new words/phrases to reach millions in no time at all.

This makes things confusing for those studying a new language. Focusing on your core vocabulary is key. Having a foundational understanding of the words featured in the Oxford 3000 will really help you to navigate the rapidly evolving English language.

So, what’s the difference between a Millennial and a Gen Z?

Sometimes referred to as the Gen Y generation, people born between 1980 and 1994 are usually considered a Millennial. They range from 26 to 40 years old and events that have impacted this generation vary from The Great Recession to the explosion of the internet and social media, and the launch of streaming services such as Netflix.

Gen Z (or Generation Z) include people born between 1995 and 2015 so they are currently 5 to 25 years old. These people have grown up with mobile devices and shaping events include smartphones, social media, and the introduction of new community sharing platforms such as Snapchat and TikTok.

Add these words to your vocabulary!

After much research, we’ve pulled together a list of some of the English Millennial and Gen Z slang words and phrases along with their definitions so that you can understand what’s being said if you hear them when chatting to friends:


This describes someone or something that is unoriginal and follows trends closely. It is usually used negatively.

They were all wearing the same top. They are so basic!


Describes someone or something that is over-dramatic or excessive.

He was being really extra and refused to accept her apology.


Describes something that is very good.

Her new song is fire!


Short for fear of missing out. This describes the feeling you get when you feel other people might be having a good time without you.

Even though he was tired, his FOMO got the best of him, so he went to the party anyway.


Describes an upgrade or transformation in terms of appearance.

She has really had a glow-up since I last saw her.


Describes something or someone that someone aspires to in life.

Her hair was absolute goals!


Describes something that is amazing or exciting.

That concert was absolutely lit!

On Fleek

Describes something that is perfect.

Her eyebrows were on fleek.

Throwing shade

To insult or judge someone discreetly or indiscreetly.

She was really throwing shade at Chloe last night.


Describes someone who is jealous, upset, or irritated – usually with something small or inconvenient.

She was very salty because he didn’t acknowledge her.


To support an existing or potential relationship.

Rosie and Oliver are great together. I definitely ship them!

Slide into their DMs

To send an (often flirtatious) direct message over social media.

He’s been liking my pictures but I’m not sure whether to slide into his DMs.

Spill the tea

To gossip or to spread gossip. Tea is sometimes used on its own to refer to gossip.

Lucy, you have to spill the tea on what happened between Sara and Ana!


Describes an attractive person.

Chris is a total snack!


Describes a good feeling or connection. It is often used as both a noun and a verb.

Jasmine and Esra are such a vibe!

Have you heard any of these words and phrases being used in real life? Share your favourite examples in the comments below!


Katie Ballard is Assistant Marketing Manager in the ELT Division at Oxford University Press. Having graduated in English, she holds a TEFL qualification and spent some time teaching English at a university in China for the Birmingham Institute of Fashion and Creative Art.

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