Jargon Watch: Modern Dating Slang And The Language Of Love

Are young people and/or media publications just making up new dating terms for sport these days? Maybe, but here’s what they mean anyway.
two people on date sharing dessert dating terms

Once upon a time, romance was, if not less complicated than it is today, less demanding of your vocabulary range. There was courtship, and then there was marriage. And quite often, “love” had nothing to do with the arrangement. But as notions of partnership evolved over time, so, too, did the dating terms used to describe the cultural climate. Once, you were “going steady.” Now, you’re “Instagram official.” And that’s to say nothing of the many nuanced shades of “not quite officially dating yet.”

Although the ever-expanding cache of modern dating terms you see online are somewhat redundant or often seem like they’ve kind of jumped the shark (like “shaveducking,” a term for when you only like a guy for his beard), there are a few terms worth knowing in this post-human desert of intimacy.

Your Guide To All The Made-Up-Sounding Dating Terms The Kids Are Using These Days

Benching — this is an updated version of “stringing someone along,” and it reflects the choice paralysis of having multiple online dating prospects to juggle. Benching someone is essentially like benching a baseball player — they’re not your first (or maybe even second) choice, but you still want to keep them around as a backup option, so you give them just enough to keep them interested.

Breadcrumbing — also a version of “stringing someone along,” but perhaps less strategic than benching. This is maybe more what you would call it when someone sends you flirty texts with no intention of actually going out with you. Why? Maybe they’re bored, or they’re looking for a quick ego boost. Or maybe “it’s not on purpose, it’s just their personality.”

Caspering — this is the “friendly ghost” version of “ghosting” (see below). There doesn’t seem to be a total consensus on what this term means, but it’s essentially a watered-down version of disappearing on someone that may end in simply letting the person know you’re not interested. Instead of just vanishing completely, though, you might wait two days to respond to a text in hopes that they’ll get the hint, but really, you’re just dragging out the long and indirect rejection because you’re afraid of looking like a jerk.

Catfish — a catfish is someone who sets up a fake dating profile to prey on vulnerable people looking for love (with an impossibly attractive person who’s possibly way out of their league).

Cuffing season — if summer is for promiscuity, then cuffing season — a.k.a. autumn — is when people lock it down with someone so they’ll have someone to hibernate with during the winter.

DTR — stands for “define the relationship.” This is “the talk” you have with someone when you’re ready to determine “what we are.”

Fuckboy — alternatively: fuckboi. A fuckboy is someone who doesn’t respect your time enough to plan a date in advance, but will text you at midnight asking if “u up?” He’s a manchild with a very transparent sense of self-interest, and you probably already know what he’s interested in.

Ghosting — ghosting is when you evade responsible communication and simply disappear from someone’s life instead, often by not responding to their texts. Note: if two people go on a date and neither follows up with the other, that’s not ghosting. Ghosting is when one person expects a response from the other and gets no explanation or closure.

Orbiting — orbiting is when things may have ended unclearly with someone, or they maybe never started (or accelerated) at all, but they still like your photos and engage with you passively to prevent you from completely forgetting about them.

Partner — more and more, people are opting to ditch terms like “girlfriend” and “boyfriend” and opt for “partner” instead. It primarily started in queer communities for an array of reasons but has started to be adopted more widely. It’s gender-neutral, it’s egalitarian, and it doesn’t infantilize your very special friend.

Poly — short for “polyamorous,” and it’s not just for “swingers” anymore. More and more people are embracing ethical non-monogamy, which involves clear communication with all parties involved, and still implies a sense of emotional responsibility to the people you’re seeing.

Submarining — when an old flame pops back into your life and acts like nothing happened while they were submerged beneath the ocean blue (first you “ghost,” then you “submarine”).

Thirst trap — a sexy or suggestive photo that acts as bait for all the thirsty (read: “eager”) people out there.

Zombieing — are you getting tired of all these redundant dating terms meant to describe “ways to be really inconsiderate”? Zombieing is kind of like submarining, except you might get a little acknowledgment from the other person regarding their absence.

Learn a new language today.
Try Babbel