Gen Z slang: From 'salty' to 'FOMO', what your younger relatives actually mean

Francesca Specter
Yahoo Style UK deputy editor
Struggling to understand what your Gen Z family members are talking about? [Getty]

Christmas is the most intense period of family time you’ll likely experience all year round. While many of us look forward to getting together with relatives over the festive season, it is not without its challenges, from board game wars to awkward small talk.

Among the obstacles you face at Christmas is trying to find common ground with younger relatives.

Those belonging to Gen Z (aka Generation Z, or those aged four to 24 years old) are likely to use popular slang terms that might seem foreign if you don’t encounter them all year round.

You might be familiar with the phrase FOMO – the “fear of missing out” – but what about its lesser known cousin, JOMO? Other words – like “basic”, “extra” and “salty”– you might think you know , but it transpires they take a different meaning altogether in the Gen Z lexicon.

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Even for some millennials (those aged between 25 and 39), some of these phrases – “peng”, “lit” – can sound faintly cryptic.

Of course, the temptation is to chastise your younger relatives for not speaking “properly”, and assert your maturity and wisdom, but there’s no getting away from the fact that language is constantly changing.

With new words being added to the dictionary every year (“sumfin”, “whatevs”, “chillax” and “simples” all made the 2020 Oxford English Dictionary update), there’s more than enough reason to embrace the new.

With this in mind, language learning app Busuu has “translated” the most confusing Gen Z lingo, to help you fare well at the Christmas table.

"The English language is constantly evolving, which why new phrases like 'on fleek', 'bae', and 'vlogger' are added to dictionaries every year,” said a representative.

“As older generations might not be as attuned to social media and the popular culture of today like their younger relatives, it's much harder for them to keep up with new lingo. It works both ways though!”

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Here are the top 10 phrases you should be looking out for this Christmas, according to Busuu:

Gen Z lingo decoded

  1. Salty: Getting upset over something menial – “Stop being so salty over Yorkshire puddings, grandma.”

  2. Peng: Something very attractive, whether it be food, a person, or even an item of clothing – “That wrapping is peng”.

  3. Lit: One of two things, intoxicated or excellent – “I was lit on Christmas Eve,” or: “Those parsnips were lit.”

  4. Fam: An endearing term to describe a close friend – “Fam, thanks for the present.”

  5. Sick: Something that is outstanding – “Those pigs in blankets were sick.”

  6. Basic: Something mainstream, or unoriginal – “Those crackers are so basic.”

  7. Extra: Anything excessive, over the top, or dramatic – “That tree is extra.”

  8. FOMO: Fear of missing out, feeling that others are having a great time in your absence – “I got such bad FOMO over missing the Christmas party”. There’s also JOMO, which means “the joy of missing out”.

  9. Shook: Hugely shocked/surprised – “I was shook – he said he didn’t like Elf.”

  10. Savage: When one is brutally honest – “She was savage about the Christmas pudding.”