53 Slang Terms by Decade

By: the Editors of Publications International, Ltd.  | 

In 1930s slang, these musicians got a gig at the juke joint.
In 1930s slang, these musicians got a gig at the juke joint.

Every generation has its slang -- new words and phrases that allow kids to communicate without their parents understanding. Read on to learn some of the most popular slang terms through the decades.

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1: 1920s Slang Terms

  1. 23 skiddoo -- to get going; move along; leave; or scram
  2. The cat's pajamas -- the best; the height of excellence
  3. Gams -- legs
  4. The real McCoy -- sincere; genuine; the real thing
  5. Hotsy-totsy -- perfect
  6. Moll -- a female companion of a gangster
  7. Speakeasy -- a place where alcohol was illegally sold and drunk during Prohibition
  8. The bee's knees -- excellent; outstanding

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2: 1930s Slang Terms

  1. I'll be a monkey's uncle -- sign of disbelief; I don't believe it!
  2. Gig -- a job
  3. Girl Friday -- a secretary or female assistant
  4. Juke joint -- a casual and inexpensive establishment with drinking, dancing, and blues music, typically in the southeastern United States
  5. Skivvies -- men's underwear

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3: 1940s Slang Terms

  1. Blockbuster -- a huge success
  2. Keeping up with the Joneses -- competing to have a lifestyle or socioeconomic status comparable to one's neighbors
  3. Cool -- excellent; clever; sophisticated; fashionable; or enjoyable
  4. Sitting in the hot seat -- in a highly uncomfortable or embarrassing situation
  5. Smooch -- kiss

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4: 1950s Slang Terms

  1. Big brother is watching you -- someone of authority is monitoring your actions
  2. Boo-boo -- a mistake; a wound
  3. Hi-fi -- high fidelity; a record player or turntable
  4. Hipster -- an innovative and trendy person

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5: 1960s Slang Terms

  1. Daddy-o -- a man; used to address a hipster or beatnik
  2. Groovy -- cool; hip; excellent
  3. Hippie -- derived from hipster; a young adult who rebelled against established institutions, criticized middle-class values, opposed the Vietnam War, and promoted sexual freedom
  4. The Man -- a person of authority; a group in power

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6: 1970s Slang Terms

  1. Catch you on the flip side -- see you later
  2. Dig it -- to like or understand something
  3. Get down/Boogie -- dance
  4. Mind-blowing -- unbelievable; originally an expression for the effects of hallucinogenic drugs
  5. Pump iron -- lift weights
  6. Workaholic -- a person who works too much or is addicted to his or her job

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7: 1980s Slang Terms

  1. Bodacious -- beautiful
  2. Chillin' -- relaxing
  3. Dweeb -- a nerd; someone who is not cool
  4. Fly -- cool; very hip
  5. Gag me with a spoon -- disgusting
  6. Gnarly -- exceptional; very cool
  7. Preppy -- one who dresses in designer clothing and has a neat, clean-cut appearance
  8. Wicked -- excellent; great
  9. Yuppie -- Young Urban Professional; a college-educated person with a well-paying job who lives near a big city; often associated with a materialistic and superficial personality

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8: 1990s Slang Terms

  1. Diss -- show disrespect
  2. Get jiggy -- dance; flirt
  3. Homey/Homeboy -- a friend or buddy
  4. My bad -- my mistake
  5. Phat -- cool or hip; highly attractive; hot
  6. Wassup? -- What's up?; How are you?
  7. Word -- yes; I agree

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9: 2000s Slang Terms

  1. Barney Bag -- a gigantic purse
  2. Newbie -- a newcomer; someone who is inexperienced
  3. Peeps -- friends; people
  4. Rents -- parents
  5. Sweet -- beyond cool

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Originally Published: Sep 20, 2007

Slang Terms FAQ

What does slang mean?
Slang is informal or local words, usages and phrases that are made up and used by a particular group of people. Slang is widely used by teenagers and young adults and has become common on social media.
What are some slang terms of the 1920s?
Some of the famous 1920 slang terms are gams (legs), hotsy-totsy (flawless or perfect), bee’s knees (outstanding), 23 skiddoo (to get going) and the real McCoy (honest or genuine).
Is it bad to use slang terms?
Some older people think slang is too informal and disrespectful, but there’s nothing inherently bad about slang. The only time it really shouldn’t be used is if it’s rude or inappropriate.

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CONTRIBUTING WRITERS:

Helen Davies, Marjorie Dorfman, Mary Fons, Deborah Hawkins, Martin Hintz, Linnea Lundgren, David Priess, Julia Clark Robinson, Paul Seaburn, Heidi Stevens, and Steve Theunissen

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