Here Are the Top 10 Slang Words of 2016

Here Are the Top 10 Slang Words of 2016

We’re a lil obsessed with slang, y’know?

According to multiple studies conducted in 2016, the English language is becoming less formal in several contexts. It’s time to talk about slang.

While grammar pedants love to decry slang as lazy or sloppy, in reality, slang often represents the next English language trend. As this infographic shows, words often go from trendy and edgy to mainstream in a relatively short period of time. In light of this knowledge, we examined the most-added slang words to the Grammarly dictionary by our millions of users to determine which words “trended” in 2016. We found some surprisingly old words! Let’s take a look at the top ten slang words for this year. Maybe we’ll learn something we freakin’ luv.

10 Luv

It’s no secret that English lacks words for different types of affection. Whereas a language like Sanskrit has ninety-six words for love, English is stuck with just one. A solution proposed by web denizens and youths is a misspelling of “love,” used primarily in a familiar, friendly sense. In 2016, “luv” saw record popularity, probably owing to the Tory Lanez song of the same name, which topped hip-hop charts and reached no. 19 on the Billboard Top 100. Like many other words on this list, music drove the popularity of “luv” this year.

9 Freakin

Although this word trended in 2016, it’s far from new. The first written instance of “freaking” (presumably the precursor to “freakin”) was in the seventeenth century, when it was used as a descriptor for people who loved odd pastimes, not as an intensifier. Even though this word is nothing new, Grammarly users still added it to their personal dictionaries in 2016. And that is freakin’ incredible.

8 Insta-

According to our users, “insta” isn’t quite its own slang word yet. Instead, it’s a beloved prefix meaning “instant” that has produced dozens of Frankensteined terms like “insta-death” and “insta-fam.” Since the launch of Instagram in 2010, this prefix has also gained a new tech-friendly meaning that specifically denotes something that happens on the platform, as in “insta-lurk” or “insta-worthy.”

7 Bestest

Many have called this superlative lazy or unnecessary, and yet, Grammarly users seem to love it. English superlatives are notoriously fickle, since some need intensifiers like “more,” while others can take the “-est” suffix. Do you think we should welcome “bestest” into the English language in 2017? Let us know in the comments below.

6 Dat

via GIPHY

English has been and will always be a multicultural language. Any one group that claims full ownership over every word in English is simply mistaken, as shown by words like “dat,” which has its origins in “vernacular poetry of the 19th century and was popularized by black entertainers,” according to The Root. Although this word has a checkered past, its popular usage as a chant for the New Orleans Saints has given it new life, and its popularity is expected to rise even higher in 2017.

5 Nah

via GIPHY

Colloquial alternatives to “no” are nothing new, but “nah’s” cultural moment actually happened in 2014, when the chart-topping song “Or Nah” was released. Since then, “nah” has remained consistently popular among Grammarly users, although Google Trends suggests that its overall popularity is waning. Do you think “nah” will continue to be popular next year, or nah?

4 -Esque

"-Esque" in "Statuesque" GIF

We’ll be honest, “esque” threw us for a loop. Until we looked at data from our users, we had no idea this was such a common suffix! If you haven’t seen words like “Kafkaesque” or “statuesque” before, you can learn more about how to attach this suffix to names, descriptive words, and even old, archaic terms.

3 Y’know

We think this one is self-explanatory, y’know?

2 Lil

lil-b-tweet Image Credit: Buzzfeed

Even if hip-hop artists like Lil Jon have adopted this word as a title, it remains on the fringe of English grammar. But you might be surprised to know that “lil” was first used in the seventeenth century as a contraction of “little” and has existed in some form or another since then. Like many of the trendy words of 2016, “lil” has a surprisingly long history for such a short word!

1 Zzz

via GIPHY

Did you snooze through this list? If so, you’ll love the onomatopoeia that dominated our users’ dictionaries this year. The transition to primarily text-based communication (social media, texting, messaging, email, etc.) has caused English speakers to find new ways to denote body language and actions that would be readily apparent in an in-person conversation. For our users, words like “zzz” and the ever-expanding “hahahahaha” help describe actions you can’t see behind a screen.

Of course, none of these slang words are accepted in formal written communications, and you’d probably be smart to steer clear of them in your next important email. It’s also important to note that while grammar pedants decry slang as “ruining” English, many of these words have existed in some form or another for centuries. Even if it’s not acceptable in formal contexts, slang was an important part of language in 2016 and will continue to be for years to come.

What do you think about the rise of words like “zzz”? Share the luv in the comments below.

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Comments
  • Kuildeous

    I can’t call the use of “bestest” lazy when it requires 75% more effort to type it out.

    Unnecessary? Sure. Even then, I’ll sometimes throw in a little “bestest” playfully.

    • Francesca Heather-Hayes

      I don’t really think the laziness is measured by the number of keys required, it refers to the amount of effort and consideration given to one’s written expression!
      As a rule I don’t much like bestest but agree it has a place in certain types of playful communication and I wouldn’t want to see it disappear completely, even though I think it’s rather overused at present

  • Ann Withers

    In the sixth line from the bottom you have written: ‘none of these slang words are accepted’. Ahhhh! It should say ‘none of these …. IS accepted’. This is a classic mistake. The word ‘none’ takes the singular verb. Many people get this wrong though.

    • RoseLee Warren

      Hooray for a good catch!

    • Tamaresque

      Or, ‘none of these slang words are acceptable’ would also have been acceptable. 🙂

      • Ann Withers

        I don’t agree. If ‘none’ means ‘not one’ then you would be saying ‘not one are acceptable’. Does that sound right to you? Unless you have a different definition of ‘none’!

        • Tamaresque

          No, not at all. “One” is singular, so it would be ‘Not one IS acceptable’, but ‘none’ implies more than one, therefor, ‘None ARE acceptable’ is correct.

          • Ann Withers

            I think we’ll have to agree to disagree! I don’t quite get your point about ‘none’ implying more than one. Generally, in this type of sentence, the sentence itself can be proved false by just one single exception. I think the sense of the sentence is ‘there is not one among these which is acceptable’, and so I wouldn’t use ‘are’ here. (Also Stephen D, I did not say none is a contraction of not one. I know none is a word in its own right; I said this word means the same as not one. (And just because people have used words in a particular way does not make it correct!)

          • Maxanito

            I agree with you Ann.

          • Kuildeous

            “None” is indeed singular, so you should never be saying, “None are…”
            I will concede if an acceptable style guide proves me wrong.

    • StephenD

      This isn’t so much a classic mistake, as classic usage. The word “none” (which is _not_ a shortening of “not one” but is a word in its own right) has taken both singular and plural verbs according to context for over a thousand years. Grammarians may invent rules, but failing to obey them doesn’t mean the usage is a mistake, classic or otherwise.

  • Tamaresque

    My screen name, Tamaresque, is a play on words. I live at the conjunction of the Tamar and Esk rivers; I also happen to be quite tall, i.e. statuesque, so I thought it a good fit.

  • Unicorngirl12334 Unicorngirl12

    The image for lil says theres instead of there’s!
    AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH!

  • Ritchie

    How quickly slang goes from hip to cliche’.

    • Ritchie

      Thank you, Bricabrac, for enlightening me on how to accent the acute e in ‘cliche’. In my original post I resorted to the possessive in a cheap attempt to make up for the lack of an accent acute on my keyboard.

  • Natalie Price

    I’m surprised ‘legit’ didn’t make the list :O

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