Teen text speak – a parent’s guide to what they’re really saying online

Parent's guide to teen slang text

How to understand your child’s text abbreviations

If you’re the parent whose child recently started in year 7, round about now (coming up to half-term) you’ll be starting to ask yourself things like “What does … mean?” If you’re not, either your child doesn’t have a smartphone, or you haven’t yet taken a sneaky look at what they’re doing on it. I’m talking about teen and tween text speak, the abbreviations and acronyms older children use to communicate online and on text. When my eldest child started secondary school, her social circle exploded, and I had no idea who any of the new people were, so I took to checking her phone and her social media accounts every now and then, just to know she was safe, and behaving appropriately online.

The only trouble was, I didn’t understand half of what was being said. I found myself googling the urban dictionary nightly, often coming up none the wiser, and imagining that the letters PU might mean anything from pyjamas undone to piss-up.  Over the years, I’ve gradually built up my own text talk dictionary to cope with basic conversations (a bit like the first two years of French that allow you to ask for directions, but not to understand the answer). However, teenage slang is as complex as the English language, and there are contextual nuances that even I struggle with. So I’ve also run my own definitions past my teenage daughter, before putting together this parent’s guide on how to decode what your teenager is saying on social media.

The ultimate guide to teenage slang and text abbreviations

Peng: I first heard this when my daughter started year 7. Far from being simple text speak, it is now a fully fledged teenage dictionary essential. It means pretty in sentences such as “that outit/your hair/you are so peng,” and you’ll often see it in the comments section of your daughter’s selfie posts on Instagram. Along with lysm, or lysfm bby (see below). Peng means so much more than this though, as I discovered recently when I tried a new recipe. “This chicken is so peng,” I quickly realised, meant that this was a dish I would be allowed to cook again, such was its appeal – unlike lots of my attempts to cultivate enthusiasm for variety in our family meal plan.

Lsym/Lysfm: love you so much, the ‘f’ being added by those who consider themselves a bit more edgy than their friends. Keep an eye on them. Likewise, you’ll see variations on this – tysm is thank you, mysm miss you, etc. To be honest (TBH) you get pretty good at working these out fairly quickly.

AF: As f*** – basically, if you see a boy comment on your daughter’s selfie post “Fit AF” (and it does happen from year 7 onwards), you might want to have a word.

Lit: Cool or brilliant. A party can be lit. So can a day out with friends, or a sleepover. From what I can make out, for something to be lit, there is likely to have been either a lot of laughing, or some big new experiences involved.

PU: pop up. This can mean anything from say hi, ask for opinions (ops), or suggest yourself as a romantic partner. You’ll sometimes see it on their social media stories when they’re feeling bored, or unnoticed, to get the conversation going and attract some attention. My advice is to make them do some music practice, or ask innocently to see their homework.

J/K: just kidding, or joke. Which you can use to get away with anything you just said. If your child is being generally unkind to someone, you might see this a lot.

Wuu2: What are you up to? (As an aside, once you figure out these slang meanings, you are not allowed to say them as they sound to you, as I discovered when I naively questioned my 12 year old “What does wootoo mean?) In fact, don’t use them at all; they’re not for you. You’re especially not allowed to comment them under your child’s Instagram posts.

NM: Not much. You’ll see quite a lot of these two teenage texting abbreviations. It usually means everyone is bored, has nothing to do, or is avoiding homework. If you see it, make them take the dog for a walk, or cook dinner.

Main G: best friend, although it can be used to mean a good person, as in “My teacher is such a G; she always argues us out of detentions.” Basically, if your child ever calls you a G, you can count it as a good day, and wonder what you did right.

Fam: friend. Ditto G, if your teenager uses it on you, accept graciously, and never mention it again.

Donny: Not – as my late night imaginings had me wondering – the most successful Osmond brother, but one of my best friends, cool boy, one of the gang.

Yeet: indicates excitement. Pay attention for this when they’re with you. If you hear it, it means you’re doing something they like, even if you can’t tell from their faces. Confusingly, yeet can also be a verb, meaning to move something – eg. I will yeet this pencil into your eye if you don’t tell me where you hid my homework; or I’m going to yeet to class right now.

Lmao: Laughing my ass off. You can add f too, if you want to see how far you can push your mother.

That’s deep: used to describe something bad, underhand, or mean. Often used when a teacher has given a detention, or a boy has cheated on his (11 year old) girlfriend.

That’s peak: same as deep.

Savage: worse than deep

Airing: when you can see that someone has read your text, but hasn’t replied, they’re airing you. This is very deep.

Beef: some sort of disagreement resulting in drama. It’s possible it might occur as a result of long-term airing, or of linking (see the language of love, below) with another person’s boyfriend.

That’s an L: I’m not sure what the L stands for, but it appears to mean bad luck. As in, it’s a shame you can’t make it to the party, or why did my teacher give me a D on this homework? “L just means everything.” my 15yo told me. “A lot of things are L’s, such as a typo, the wrong kind of sausage in your sandwich, it raining on sports day, life…”

Streaks: an ongoing, two-way interaction on social media which takes place daily, and  that you MUST NOT BREAK! As a parent, it’s wise to be ready for these, and to build in extra time each morning before school for them to be sent. Don’t imagine that using a blocking app to limit their access to social media so they can get ready to leave the house will go down well, because well, they have to send their streeeeeeeaaaaks!!!!!!

Bby: baby. A common term of endearment amongst girls and their friends. If you see a child of the opposite sex commenting this, they’re probably linking, or more. Talking of which:

The teenage language of love

Teen dating is completely unfathomable to me. For a start, it begins in the first year of secondary school – yes, I’m talking about your child, the one who isn’t interested in boys. Except she is. Getting a girlfriend or boyfriend is pretty much the passport to popularity in year 7, so it quickly becomes the main goal. It’s not how it went for me, at all. When I was 16 I snogged someone. When I was 17 I had my first boyfriend, in that we were ‘going out.’ We never actually went anywhere, we just hung out if we happened to have been invited to the same party. That was it. I was aware of something called ‘going steady’ from watching Grease, but it seemed to mean cutting out dates with other boys, and there never were any other boys. We considered ourselves lucky to get just one. If there was ever another, you were two-timing. That’s all we needed to know.

These days it’s a lot more complicated. If you’ve ever watched Love Island, you’ll know. If not, here’s how my teenager explained it to me:

Linking: messaging someone you like about more than just basic things. Asking wuu2 and trying to keep the conversation going. Having streaks on Snapchat with someone you fancy, and actually saying things rather than just drawing a streak (oh yes they do). The key to linking appears to be that although you look like great friends on private message, you’d never dream of speaking to each other in person.

Going out: as in our day, going out doesn’t mean actually going out, so don’t panic at this stage. Going out is pretty much the same a linking, only it’s public knowledge. Your friends know about it, the teachers may know, and congratulate you on it, but you still don’t really speak to each other face to face.

Being boyfriend and girlfriend: this is more serious, and requires a question to be popped. I think this might be the equivalent of going steady, and it means you are allowed to talk to each other in public, and yes, to go on dates. It also means you can hang out at each other’s houses, meet the parents, and depending on how long it lasts, consider ‘doing bits.’ Personally, I think it’s way too much pressure on a young couple. Surely building up to the most romantic question you’ve ever asked, complete with fairy lights and cherry blossom is a once in a lifetime thing that no-one should be forced through the agony of before they actually decide they want to marry someone?

Teenage dating is complicated

The rest is pretty much as you’d expect; snogging is snogging, hooking up is a thing, teenagers know about Netflix and Chill. Thankfully they seem to have abandoned that horrible phrase we all used for kissing a boy – getting off with. Yeuch.

And yes, your child is having these conversations via Snapchat. And if you don’t get them Snapchat, they’ll have them via text or WhatsApp. Or on the Snapchat account they set up that you don’t know about (see this post about how kids get around parental controls).

Basic need to know text abbreviations

If nothing else, you need to know these, because your teenager will use them in communications with you. Usually when they’re in the same house, to ask you to bring something to their bedrooms:

  • Yh: yes
  • WRU: where are you?
  • Kk: ok. Apparently it’s too much effort to type an O when you can just do 2 k’s
  • Thx: thanks
  • Ikr: I know, right?
  • Pls: please. So ubiquitous I’ve started saying it out loud. Which is not allowed.
  • Dw: don’t worry
  • Obvs: obviously
  • Ofc: of course
  • Smh: shaking my head (in response to something you’ve said that’s extremely embarrassing, or parent-like
  • GTG: got to go
  • NTS: not too sure (posted as a caption on an instagram picture for approval)
  • CBA: can’t be arsed

The meaning of text symbols and emojis

Often there won’t be a comment at all under your child’s posts, just a string of emojis. Usually these are obvious things like hearts and stars, but sometimes you’ll come across one that makes no sense at all. I’m still trying to work out why the boys in my daughter’s year used to post petrol pumps as a sign of friendship – but apparently that’s what it is:

  • 🔥 On fire, hot, sexy
  • 👀 Looking.  👀🔥 might mean looking hot
  • 💍 This is used between boyfriend and girlfriend in bios, to indicate that they are, actually, interested in what you thought they were too young to consider
  • ⚡️ Cool, good
  • 🍆 Penis
  • 🍑 Bottom

Hopefully this list will give you something to work with in accessing your teenager’s text talk dictionary. Hopefully you’ll never see a fit AF, or a penis or bottom emoji. Also, take my advice: When the inevitable happens, and they start linking someone, don’t ask questions, or ask if he’s cute. It’s the best way to make sure they delete all their chat history so you’ll think they’re not having the conversations you’re worried they might be having, that they actually are having. And – now you know these teen text speak examples  – you must never, ever use them yourself. You’re not 15, and you don’t want to blow your cover.

These teenage text acronyms are what I have learned so far from my own kids, up to the age of 15, in the UK. For a more exhaustive list, especially if you’re in the USA, use McAfee’s 2019 texting slang update. It has a lot of social media acronyms relating to sex and dating, including sending nudes, so be prepared! 


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What your child is really saying in his texts

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