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Social Media is Changing Our Language: Words With New Meanings

By now, using acronyms for phrases is pretty common. If you want to make someone feel old or out of touch, just throw some social media acronyms at them, and everyone will be OFL (on the floor laughing.)

Even if you’re not texting or on social media, you’ve probably noticed some acronyms popping up in everyday conversations. In marketing, FOMO (fear of missing out) crops up frequently (pronounced Foe-Moe. Don’t say F-O-M-O, or you’ll get eye rolls).

YOLO (you only live once, also spoken as one word that rhymes with solo, not spoken as four letters) is also becoming more common. Since some of these work as words as well as acronyms, it’s easy to use them naturally in conversation.

LMFAO (laugh my f-ing ass off) is a little harder to work into a sentence, but it’s become ubiquitous in social media posts. In fact, a long list of abbreviations and acronyms now shows up pretty regularly. (Sprout Social shares a long list here.)

Words That Mean Something Else in Social Media

While it takes some energy to keep up with social media and texting acronyms, what is relevant to marketers is that the meanings of many words are actually changing.

While English has always been a malleable language and historically changed over time, social media is bending words and meanings in a matter of weeks instead of decades.

With this in mind, we thought it would be fun (and maybe useful) to share a few of our favorite changed meanings here.


OLD – Noun; a data transmission rate.

NEW – Noun; a person’s capacity to handle tasks, physical or emotional.

“I don’t have the bandwidth to deal with your crisis right now.”


OLD – Noun; type of freshwater fish.

NEW – Noun or verb; a person who is deceiving by pretending to be another person online.

“Beth thought she was chatting online with another 14-year-old, but he was actually a 40-year-old catfish.”

“Are you really going to catfish her?”


OLD – Verb; you can physically check in to a hotel.

NEW –Verb; you can tell people where you are by “checking in” on social media.

“He let everyone know he was at the club by checking in on Facebook.”


OLD – Adjective; additional.

NEW – Noun; over-the-top in a good way, but also too much or overdone in a bad way.

“Wow. That dress is definitely extra!”

“I try to avoid her. She’s just so extra.”


OLD – Noun; lighting powered by gas.

NEW – Verb; present false information with the intention of making someone doubt their own memory or to avoid blame. Usually, a person in power is using this technique to transfer the blame to someone less powerful.

“My boss told me that he asked me to call our client last week to apologize for the error. But he was gaslighting; I never knew about the error, he never once mentioned that the client was unhappy, and he certainly never asked me to apologize to them.”


OLD – Noun; while ghosting never existed as a word before, a ghost was a disembodied spirit.

NEW – Verb; stop communication without explanation.

“I thought we had a good date, but now he isn’t answering any texts or calls. He is ghosting me.”


OLD – Noun; the Asiatic warmongers who ravaged Europe in the 4th–5th centuries.

NEW – Noun; a preferred spelling for hon, short for honey.

“Hey, hun, what’s up?”


OLD – Noun; darkness caused by shelter from direct sunlight.

NEW – Noun; a negative term for disrespect, usually implied or delivered in a passive-aggressive manner. People can also “throw shade.”

“Lauren is the queen of shade.”

“We want to keep this meeting positive. Don’t bring your shade in here.”

Snatch or Snatched

OLD – Verb; stolen quickly or covertly.

NEW – Verb or adjective; have a skinny waist; used exclusively as a feminine descriptor. Use it in the way you would use “cinch” or “cinched.”

“These exercises are going to snatch that waist.”

“I want a snatched waist.”


OLD – Noun; Hormel’s delicious canned ham.

NEW– Noun or verb; unwanted emails and messages, usually from businesses.

“I have so much spam in my inbox, it’s tough to find your email.”

“Don’t spam your customers with unwanted emails.”


OLD – Noun; a beverage that you drink.

NEW – Noun; hot gossip, the latest news.

“What’s the latest tea?”


OLD – Noun; a mythical creature that lives under bridges.

NEW – Noun or verb; a person intentionally posting negative responses online, often without a clear motive or to start arguments.

“Ignore those nasty comments. They’re obviously from a troll.”


OLD – Verb; past tense of wake, to rouse from sleep.

NEW – Adjective or noun; politically and socially aware, usually referring to socially progressive viewpoints.

“He tries to act all woke, but he’s still a secret woman-hater.”

And Now, One Brand New Word to Add to Your Vocabulary: Zoomers

Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials…and now Zoomers. The elusive Gen Z seems to have a name now. When you are talking about people born (approximately) 1981 – 1996, you’re talking about Millennials. For people born after 1996, it looks like they’re going to be called Zoomers.

“Zoomers are always gaming or looking at their phones.”

Want to read more blogs about terms and language? Check out these Cup O Content articles.



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