15 best 80s slang terms and their meanings 

15 best 80s slang terms and their meanings 

by Andrea Byaruhanga

Updated June 23, 2022

Every decade has its defining characteristics: fashion, music, movies and, of course, slang. And the 1980s had some of the best slang ever

While every country has its own slang, a lot of the most popular 80s slang was American, made famous by Hollywood movies. This 80s slang was so much more than just what you said—it was just as much about the attitude you had while saying it. 

Certain expressions from the 80s are still making the rounds today. But, for the most part, when expressions like “gnarly” are used now, it’s usually to make fun of how people used to speak. 

Below, we discuss the 15 best slang words from the 80s, what they mean and how to use them!

  1. Bad
  2. Bitchin’
  3. Bod
  4. Choice
  5. Gag me with a spoon
  6. Gnarly
  7. No doy/no duh
  8. Not even
  9. Psych
  10. Radical
  11. Ralph
  12. Scarf
  13. Take a chill pill
  14. Veg out
  15. Wannabe

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1. Bad

In the 80s, if you wanted to show approval for something, you called it “bad.” That’s right: Confusingly, “bad” meant that something was, in fact, very good.

How to use it: “You’re looking bad in that denim jacket, man!”

2. Bitchin’

The term “bitchin’” was actually first used in the 1960s; however, it rose to popularity again in the 80s, thanks to its use in popular culture, including the movie Back to the Future Part II. At any rate, this long-standing slang word means “cool” or “awesome.”

How to use it: “Are you going to Brody’s birthday this weekend? His parties are always bitchin’!”

3. Bod

This one might be obvious: It’s an abbreviated term for “body.” It was used primarily when making a positive comment about someone’s physical appearance (a popular activity in the 80s). 

How to use it: “Whoa! Check out your bod! Have you been hitting the gym lately?

4. Choice

In the 80s, if you called something “choice,” it meant you really liked it. This term was often used for high-quality items like an expensive article of clothing or a nice car. 

How to use it: “Those leather boots are choice! Did you get them at the mall?” 

5. Gag me with a spoon

Want to show your disgust with something? Just say “Gag me with a spoon”! This was a common phrase to react to something gross. 

How to use it: “Ugh! Did someone heat up fish in the microwave? Gag me with a spoon!”

6. Gnarly

Originally, the word “gnarly” referred to something twisted (gnarled) or bad—for example, surfers used it to talk about a difficult wave to ride. But it eventually started being used to describe something good. To use a word like this properly, you have to make sure you say it with a California accent

How to use it: “I love how your hair is short on top and long in the back. It looks gnarly!” 

7. No doy/no duh

If you wanted to convey that someone just said something really obvious—and that you’d have to be very dumb not to know it—you’d respond with a “No doy” or “No duh.” 

How to use it: 

Speaker 1: “Did you know that people in Germany speak German?” 

Speaker 2: “Uh… no doy!”

8. Not even

“Not even” was a quick way to respond to someone when they said something you disagreed with; it was basically like saying “No, you’re wrong!” (but much cooler, of course). You could also use it as a negative response to a question. 

How to use it:

Speaker 1: “Why are you always staring at my brother? I think you’re in love with him.”

Speaker 2: “Not even!”

9. Psych

You would use this term in the 80s to let someone know that you had just tricked them by making them believe something that wasn’t true. Hearing someone yell “Psych!” at you could make you feel like the biggest dummy. 

How to use it:  

Speaker 1: “Did you hear? The principal said we’ve learned enough, so he canceled school for the rest of the year.”

Speaker 2: “Really? That’s awesome!”

Speaker 1: “Psych! Hehehehe.” 

10. Radical

This was a common expression of approval, much like “gnarly” or “bitchin’.” Often shortened to “rad,” you might still hear this one in use today!

How to use it: “You’re going to Hawaii for winter vacation? Radical!”

11. Ralph

Ralph is not just a name! It was also an 80s word that meant “vomit.” You could use this literally, or when you wanted to emphasize your disgust at something.

How to use it: “Those shoes are so ugly they make me want to ralph!”

12. Scarf

Ever been so hungry or had something so delicious that you stuffed food into your mouth at record speed? That’s scarfing! In other words, to “scarf” is to eat a lot of food quickly. 

How to use it: “I was starving after volleyball practice and I scarfed a whole pizza by myself.”

13. Take a chill pill

If someone was stressing out, it was common to hear someone else tell them to “Take a chill pill!” This was basically a not very sensitive way to tell someone to relax. 

How to use it: “I’m sure you didn’t fail the exam. Take a chill pill!”

14. Veg out

You know those days when you’re just sitting around relaxing and not really focusing on anything? In the 80s, this would be called “veggin’ out”! This term is actually still used pretty regularly nowadays.

How to use it: “I’ve had such a long week at work. I just want to go home and veg out!”

15. Wannabe

Long before the Spice Girls released their famous song, the term “wannabe” was used to describe a person who wanted to be like someone else or achieve a certain status. In case you couldn’t tell, it comes from the words “want to be.”

How to use it: “My little sister started borrowing my clothes and doing her hair like mine. She’s such a wannabe!”


Build some bitchin’ vocabulary

The words we explored above might seem a little silly—maybe even completely ridiculous. But they’re a lot of fun to use. Get to know more 80s slang words and try using them with your friends. You’ll have a tubular time!

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Andrea is a Canadian freelance writer and editor specializing in English, e-learning, EdTech, and SaaS. She has a background as an ESL teacher in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia. In her free time, Andrea loves hanging out with her husband and children, creating recipes in the kitchen, and reading fiction. She also loves camping and jumping into lakes whenever possible. Learn more about Andrea on LinkedIn or check out her website.

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