The Most Popular Slang Words by State

Slang words and phrases emerge locally — but those that feel right in the imagination or on the tongue have the potential to spread globally.

The phenomenon is most visible online. Always-on international connectivity (some call it the ‘internet’) sends local slang airborne to travel virally. Slang that originates online — wildfiring across social networks or gestating within a particular forum or interest — has the capacity to leak out into unexpected places and real-life exchanges.

On the other hand, some slang stays put just because it loses its meaning or faces too much competition for use outside its home base. Alaska, for example, is so isolated from the contiguous states that locals call leaving the state “going outside.” Chicagoans say “woo wap da bam” when really what they mean is “yadda yadda yadda.”

To identify the states that favor their own home-grown slang for certain subjects (and bone up on potential left-field crossword clues), Crossword-Solver analyzed Twitter posts from all over America to find the slang that locals are using the most.

What We Did

Crossword-Solver curated a selection of the most popular slang words for partners, gaming, crypto and hip-hop, and also the most-used Gen-Z slang words. We found the most uniquely popular term in each state by comparing local usage rates of each word on Twitter against the overall national average for that word.

Key Findings

  • Cutie is the most common slang word for boyfriend/girlfriend in nine states, more than any other such word.
  • Glitch is the top gaming slang word in seven states.
  • The crypto slang word that’s most popular in most states is NFT, which tops 15 states.
  • Finna and simp are each the most common Gen-Z slang word in six states.
  • Deuce is the most popular hip-hop slang word in eight states.

Americans Prefer ‘Shorty’ or ‘Cutie’ for Partners

Psychologists suggest that the use of nicknames in a relationship helps foster trust and intimacy. But let’s face it, sometimes it depends on the tone you use. Shorty, or shawty, is the top slang term of endearment in eight states. It’s a hip-hop word that has come to connote a sexually attractive woman, although the level of respect depends on the context in which it’s used. Shorty’s meaning has evolved since the word debuted in Too $hort’s “Everytime” (1985), and old-school hip-hop fans may use it to refer to a man or kid.

The Most Popular Friend Slang by State

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The most popular of all is cutie — which stands out in nine states, having been in use since 1908. A newer entry is bae, which emerged in 2005 and quickly became A Cool Thing To Say, getting shortlisted for Oxford Dictionaries’ 2014 Word of the Year before being declared dead at the end of the year. Whether the word is short for babe or stands for Before Anyone Else remains unconfirmed. Still, rumors of bae’s demise are exaggerated — it remains the top boyfriend/girlfriend slang word in Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

The Non-Gaming Terms That Became Common U.S. Gaming Slang

Glitch and nerf are duking it out for the top gaming slang term with seven states each. Nerf has been around nearly as long as online gaming and was first used in a slang context by players of the early Ultima Online MMORPG. Gamers found that the sword option was disproportionately stronger than other weapons and asked the developers to weaken it. They compared the new, weaker swords to foam Nerf toys and today, ‘to nerf’ in gaming means to make something weaker.

The Most Popular Gaming Slang by State

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Surprisingly, glitch also has meatspace origins. The Smithsonian tells us the word “is derived from glitsh, Yiddish for slippery place, and from glitshn, meaning to slide, or glide” and was first used to describe verbal slips on 1940s radio shows. The TV industry adopted the word for technical issues in the ‘50s, and it later flourished among software programmers — but gamers themselves have adopted the term whether fetishizing programming slips in their favorite games or exploiting glitches to cheat. (Such cheaters are known as glitch gamers.)

Crypto Slang Users Gamble on ‘NFT’

Crypto slang started to enter the mainstream, but it seems it could go the way of Latin — a dead language maintained by a minority of specialists and enthusiasts. Perhaps the term with the best hope for survival is NFT, referring to the non-fungible tokens (unique digital assets) that became big news over the past couple of years. And if they’ve been much smaller news this year, they remain the most common crypto term in 15 states. If the technology can rebuild its reputation, maybe one day we’ll all be calling them “nefts.”

The Most Popular Crypto Slang by State

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In a subculture of acronyms, it’s refreshing to find an abbreviation or two. Degen is the big little word in Colorado, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Oregon. It’s an old betting term for a degenerate gambler, but in NFT culture the term can either be cast as an insult or worn as a badge of (reckless) honor.

Gen-Z ‘Finna’ Change the Way Everybody Talks

Jazz-age movers and shakers gave us “the bee’s knees” and “gams” (if not “the bee’s gams”). Boomers gave us “hip” and “doobie.” Every generation tortures the generations before and after with its slang, and today’s verbal culture is being re-shaped by Gen Z (those born after Tony! Toni! Toné! and before Rick and Morty). Simp and finna are making their case for mainstream acceptance, each being the most popular in six states.

The Most Popular Gen Z Slang by State

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While much of the U.S. Gen Z slang landscape is a patchwork, there is a definite lean towards finna in southern states. That’s because it’s evolved out of the southern African American Vernacular English (AAVE) phrase, “fixing to,” meaning “gonna.” Not only is finna very southern, but it’s also very popular, appearing in 0.24%, 0.34% and 0.40% of tweets from Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. By comparison, basic appears in just  0.08% of Minnesota tweets and slay in just 0.02% of Kentucky’s.

‘Slime and ‘420’ Among Hip-Hop Slang with Well-Known Origins

Hip-hop has long been a source of emerging mainstream slang. It’s a popular medium with a strong emphasis on words, speech and meaning — and much of that is crafted from slang, whether new slang or the “transcriptions” of well-worn AAVE phrases. Indeed, hip-hop artists have the power to create entirely new slang words that gain wider use. For example, slime (friend) is the most commonly used hip-hop slang word in Hawaii, Kentucky and Washington. It was repurposed from its gooey meaning by rapper N.O.R.E., although it is best known from the work of Vado.

The Most Popular Hip Hop Slang by State

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Geographically, there is a notable 420 belt running up the west of the country. This 50-year-old word for cannabis is the favorite hip-hop slang of Colorado, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Wyoming, although the phrase was originally coined by five Californian high school kids. (Its creation is well-documented here.)

Slang Like A Local Without the ‘Cringe’

Like any form of language, the response you’ll get from using slang will depend very much on where you are and to whom you’re speaking. In case it should help you to gel with “fellow kids,” we’ve gathered our findings in full in this interactive table so you can see what’s commonly said from state to state.

Or you could just invent your own. From N.O.R.E.’s slime to the grunge store clerk that invented the entirety of grunge slang in a single sitting to Anthony Burgess creating a fictitious delinquent slang that real juveniles quickly took up, language is your plaything. Just beware that unless you’re Burgess, N.O.R.E. or Kayla Lewis, you’ll need to teach it to other people before they can understand what you’re saying.

METHODOLOGY & SOURCES

To identify America’s most popular slang words, we retrieved over 18 million geotagged tweets from each state. We filtered these tweets to remove duplicates and non-English-language posts.

We curated a list of slang words for various categories: Girlfriend/Boyfriend, Gaming, Crypto, Gen-Z and Hip-Hop slang. Then we searched the retrieved tweets for these terms. 

To find out which term was the most uniquely popular in each state, we calculated the usage frequency of each keyword on a U.S. and state level. By comparing these two figures, we were able to discover which terms are the most uniquely popular in each state, defined as the term with the highest percentage variation when compared with the national usage frequency.

To filter out outliers, we set a threshold for minimum appearances in each state. Finally, we calculated the average usage for 100K tweets for each selected term.

Recent Clues