7 American Slang Words
No matter how fluent you are in a language, you don’t quite speak like a native until you know some slang- and we are here to help you with some of the most common slang words. Slang is a very informal way of expressing (showing) an idea, metaphor, or saying something a bit playfully.
Slang words may be a derivative (part) of a word, a brand new word, or collection of words. There is no rule for slang words, as they usually evolve over time, depend on where you are in the world, and change with the different generations (or ages) of people using them.
While slang is informal, it’s still an important part of learning a language and shouldn’t go at the bottom of your vocabulary priority list. Using slang words helps you connect with native speakers and it can be really fun to use when you know a few pretty well! I love slang words and great idioms– they can add great color to a thought and when used at the right time, can be quite funny.
So here are seven of my favorites to help you speak more like a native!
Have you ever been so tired that you fall asleep pretty much as soon as you close your eyes? Or have you been out with friends, missed your last train home, and slept on your friend’s couch? In both of these instances, you can use the word crash.
For example: “I crashed as soon as I got home last night.”
Meaning: I fell asleep as soon as I got home last night.
For example: “I crashed at Tom’s last night.”
Meaning: I slept at Tom’s last night.
This is one of those slang words I’ve had a lot of trouble letting go of since moving to Germany, even when speaking about euros. A buck is another word for the American dollar. As early back as the late 1700s, one U.S. dollar was worth the same as one deerskin, a buck. We don’t trade goods (things to sell) for buckskins anymore, but we have kept the reference to “three bucks” or “twenty bucks” in describing the value of something!
For example: “I’m going to have to go to an ATM because I only have a few bucks left.”
Meaning: I need to go to an ATM because I only have a few dollars left.”
Plead the Fifth
This is another phrase I say a lot and it can be pretty confusing if you are translating word-for-word since it’s distinctly (specifically) American. The phrase comes from the Fifth Amendment in the American Constitution that says if you’re in court, you don’t have to say anything that could be used against you. OJ Simpson, for example, famously pled the Fifth during his trial in the 1990s.) In American slang, if you plead the Fifth, you’re staying silent on the subject.
For example: “Tom asked what I thought of his new girlfriend, but I pled the Fifth.”
Meaning: Tom asked what I thought of his new girlfriend, but I didn’t want to say anything. It may be because I didn’t like her or don’t know her well enough yet to decide if I like her and I didn’t want to say anything that I would regret later.
You know when you have a really bad craving (desire, wish) for something and you’re not happy until you get it? Then you’re jonesing for something. Whether it’s coffee, popcorn, or that fantastic spaghetti bolognese from that restaurant next to the Coliseum in Rome, if you’re jonesing for something, you simply have to have it.
For example: “Whenever I go home to the States, I start jonesing for In n Out Burger.”
Meaning: Whenever I go home to the States, I want an In n Out burger really badly.
Have you ever been walking in a creepy, not-so-nice area of town late at night? Or have you met someone who gave you the creeps (made you feel very uncomfortable)? Then you can use the word sketchy to describe it. If something is sketchy, you get the feeling that it’s not safe or dodgy (creepy).
For example: “I live in a sketchy part of town. I don’t really like walking home after dark, so I usually take a taxi.”
Meaning: I live in a part of town that gives me the creeps. I don’t really like walking home after dark because it makes me uncomfortable, so I take a taxi.
Zonked is a word that means something similar to crash. However, if you’re zonked, you’re exhausted.
For example: “Man, I’m really zonked. I’m going to go home and crash.”
Meaning: Man, I’m really exhausted. I’m going to go home and fall asleep immediately.
When was the last time you were really excited to do something? Was it when you last went on a big vacation? Or when you turned 30? Maybe then you were stoked. If you’re stoked, you’re extremely excited for something coming up. It’s one of those slang words that I hope you get to use a lot!
For example: “I’m stoked to write the Bespeaking blog each week!”
Meaning: I’m really excited to write the Bespeaking blog each week!
What are some of your favorite slang words in your native language and what do they mean? We’d love to hear about your favorites in the comments below!
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