Teenage Slang And Language: A Guide To Understanding Teenagers

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Teenage Slang And Language: A Guide To Understanding Teenagers

When trying to communicate with your daughter, it can sometimes seem as though she is speaking another language; full of teenage slang words and phrases you’ve never heard of. Our Teenagers’ Language Guide and Action Checklist will help you decipher youth slang and make communication with your girl better.

Across different generations, teenagers have always had their own language. Think of the 1950s’ Beat Generation when all things good were called “cool”. By the early 1960s, Mod slang had changed this to “ace”, in hippy lingo it became “groovy” and today, this simple descriptor can be anything from “sick” to “amaze”. It can make understanding teenagers hard.

Teenage slang words exist because they need their own language 

Using a language that is particular to your tribe and time is part of developing self-esteem, confidence and crucially, a sense of identity and belonging. Teenagers are trying to find their own way in the adult world and are most at home when developing relationships with their peers. Having your own teenage language creates bonds with other teens, and helps to build confidence in your own opinions.


Technology creates greater opportunities for coming up with new words. Deborah Tannen, linguistics professor at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and author of You’re Wearing That? Understanding Mothers and Daughters in Conversation, says text speak or ‘txt spk’ shows teens are molding language to suit their needs. We shouldn’t jump to criticize it, but we grown-ups don’t need to try to emulate it either in order to relate to our daughters.

There’s no need to learn teenage slang or text speak

“You need to use language that’s appropriate to the context, just as you need to dress in a way that’s appropriate to the context,” says Tannen. “Adults look silly when they try to dress like kids. They might sound a little silly trying to talk like kids.”

As daughters get older they may be happier to use language that their parents will probably have more chance in understanding, but when they’re young they like to try new things and feel some independence.

Rapidly changing teenage slang, says Dove Self-Esteem Project Advisory Board member Dr. Christina Berton, is a totally normal part of the growing up process and something that parents should try to accept. “As your daughter grows up, she will be constantly trying to find ways to define her own personality and mark out her independence,” she explains. “Naturally, part of this is about setting herself apart from her parents and having a ‘private’ language between her and her friends is one way of doing this.

“This doesn’t mean you have to be excluded from what’s going on though – as her parent, it’s important to make sure she knows you’re willing to talk to her about anything and that above all, you’re really interested in what’s going on in her life. Remember not to be judgmental and be a parent she can look up to for wisdom, advice and sharing. That way she’ll know the lines of communication are always open.”


Action checklist:
Understanding Teenagers: A Teenage Language And Slang Words Guide

Decipher some of your daughter’s text speak with our handy guide to youth slang and jargon:


BRB = be right back
TTYL= talk to you later
LOL = laugh out loud
B4N= bye for now

OIC= oh I see
Jokes = funny
OT= off topic

RT= real time

What next:Action Steps To Help With Understanding Teenagers

  • Don’t try to adopt your daughter’s voice. She wants to feel that she is her own, separate person, and developing her own language is part of that.
  • Teens love instant messaging and texts so one way to keep an open line of communication is to use mobile technology to contact your daughter – but there’s no need to use abbreviated ‘txt spk’ to be understood.
  • If you don’t know what your teenage daughter is talking about, try asking her to explain what she means while letting her know you’re interested in what she’s got to say.
  • Read our article ‘Better communication: sharing your ‘mom wisdom’ with your daughter’ and find out more information about connecting with your daughter and having the right kind of conversations.

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