2021 TikTok Slang and Trends: A Comprehensive Guide for Parents
**This blog post was updated on July 27, 2021.**
If you’ve ever wondered why your teen or tween spends so much time on TikTok, you’re not alone. TikTok is an incredibly popular app right now, and for Generation Z it’s an important part of their cultural landscape. While there’s a ton of new content added every minute — and much of it has a flavor-of-the-week type of popularity — there’s an entire collection of TikTok slang words that kids regularly use on the app that has spilled over into regular slang.
Here are some of the phrases and trends you’ll see over and over again on TikTok (and now other social media platforms) — with a translation for parents so you’ll know what your kid is actually saying.
Popular 2021 Slang and Trends
This high-pitched sound usually accompanies videos with the “ice in my veins” pose. It’s commonly used to express shock, surprise, or excitement — though it’s often said just for fun, especially as a call-and-response type exchange.
Move over, “Renegade” and “Ratchet” — the latest TikTok dance craze is the Smeeze. Featuring hopping, stomping, and flailing arms, the Smeeze has been tagged nearly a billion times on TikTok and is usually set to “She Gon Go” by Trill Ryan. Like other viral dance trends, it’s even been featured in Fortnite, which definitely added to its popularity.
Remember the term “basic” from about a decade ago and how it applied to “mainstream” interests like Ugg boots, pumpkin spice lattes, and more? Gen Z uses “cheugy” much the same way — except they use it to refer to older folks who are trying too hard or are out of touch.
This common slang term can be found in the comments section of many TikToks. As a refresher, “bestie” can mean “best friend,” but it can be used as a kind of formal address to a stranger. Example: “Bestie, I’ve never seen this video, but you need to be safer while skateboarding.”
“Jeffery Bezos” and “That Funny Feeling”
Comedian Bo Burnham is known for his stand-up delivery that often relies on musical numbers. His pandemic special Inside features several incredibly catchy earworms that have proven to be very popular as sound choices for TikToks in 2021. “That Funny Feeling” in particular is used in videos where people talk about bouts of depression.
“International Super Spy,” “Into the Thick of it,” and “Castaways”
TikTok inspiration can from the strangest of places — including children’s TV shows! These three songs are from The Backyardigans, a kid’s program from the mid-2000s. For many younger TikTok users, there’s definitely a nostalgia effect at play here, not to mention the fact that these songs are uplifting, charming, and definitely vibe-able.
The early part of this year saw TikTok absolutely dominated by sea shanties — you read that right! A user named Nathan Evans posted a video of himself singing a 19th-century sailing song called “The Wellerman.” Soon, people were duetting the video and adding layers of vocals, instruments, and more. There’s even an electronic dance music remix that really showcases the endless creativity to be found on the platform.
Credit card slam
Familiar with the phrase “shut up and take my money?” If so, you’ll understand this trend, which features audio of someone banging on a table and video of them handing over their credit card (to no one). It’s used when people want to indicate that they really want something and will buy it without even looking at the price. In the comments, this sound gets transcribed as “💥💥💳💥💥”.
Recently Popular Classics
It’s the for me
This incredibly popular fill-in-the-blank phrase is used in two primary ways: a conversation where you go back and forth stating things you either love about something or can’t stand about something. For example, if you’re talking about why you don’t like school, you could say: “It’s the early mornings for me,” and your friend would say, “It’s the Zoom calls for me.”
He on X Games mode
ESPN’s X Games are the Olympics of extreme sports like skateboarding, BMX biking, snowboarding, and more. The phrase originated on the now-defunct video streaming platform Vine — a guy films his friend doing a cool trick and reacts by saying, “He on X Games mode!” This audio is now played on TikTok over all kinds of activities where someone does something impressive — but always with a heavy dose of sarcasm.
Say sike rn
Remember saying something false when you were growing up and then screaming “SIKE!” to indicate you were joking? Kids today have a similar TikTok slang version of it. “Say sike rn” translates to “please tell me you’re joking right now.”
You’re wrong but go off
This is a sassy way to acknowledge that someone is incorrect about an idea, but that you know they’re determined to keep spouting their opinion no matter what.
Need to add a definitive closer to something you’re trying to say? Instead of saying “AND THAT’S FINAL, MISTER,” like your mom would have said, try using “PERIODT.” As in, there’s nothing more to add to this sentence or conversation — it’s over. The final T makes the word even more crisp and clear.
Want to ask how someone is doing? With your friends, you’d probably just ask, “How ya been?” But your kid may just use TikTok slang to ask their BFF: “Vibe check?” If your kid thinks you’re easy-going, fun, and forgiving of small mistakes, they might say you “pass the vibe check.”
We stan a queen/king
As you may know, to “stan” someone or something is to be a fan of that person or thing. When you say you “stan a _____ queen/king,” that means you’re supporting someone who truly deserves it — a compliment. As in: “Harry Styles was really cool about asking for permission before touching people while shooting the music video for ‘Watermelon Sugar.’ We stan a consent king.”
It really do be like that sometimes
This simple TikTok slang saying is akin to “it is what it is” — an acceptance of life’s ups and downs. It’s also used to show that what someone is going through is relatable.
A “simp” refers to someone (usually but not always a boy) who goes out of their way to do things for the person they’re attracted to in the hope that they’ll start dating — but who ends up stuck in the “friend zone.” Because of this, it tends to be used as an insult. Simp nation, then, refers to this collective group of people. It’s often a warning, as in, “Don’t become a part of Simp nation!”
TikTok Slang Is Always Evolving
While this is a great list to get you started in understanding the complex world of TikTok slang and trends, it’s important to remember that it’s just that — complex and always changing! Feel free to send us recommendations for new phrases to add to the list by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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