Flat Earth

A (very incomplete) guide to Gen Z language

A survival guide for older people who can’t make heads or tails of the messages that their new Gen Z co-workers are writing in Slack.

“👁️👄👁️” being painted
Colour me surprised

This short guide explains common words, phrases, and emojis that you might see used by Gen Z in the workplace and on social media. There are plenty more examples of Gen Z-specific slang, but I’m focussing primarily on the subset that you’re likely to encounter in the workplace.

Words and phrases

Word or phrase What it means
bougie (also boujee)

Derived from “bourgeois”. Used to describe something that’s (overly) fancy.


Used to describe something that’s really good.

(no) cap

“Cap” (“lie”) isn’t actually new, but has found a new audience in Gen Z. Often used in the form “no cap”, meaning truthful.


A “CEO of x” is someone who’s good at x, e.g. “CEO of shitposting”.


Used to describe someone or something that’s no longer cool; for example, one might say that people who write guides that explain Gen Z language are cheugy.


Used to compliment someone’s look or style.


Short for “family”, meaning “your people” in the broad sense of the word, e.g. your friends and closest colleagues.

hits different

Used to describe something that’s really good, and could almost be called life-changing.

I’m dead/weak

Said when someone has “died” from laughter.


If you know, you know. Often used for inside jokes and things that you normally wouldn’t talk about at the office.


Used to describe something that’s cool or exciting. Closely related to the idea of something being “on fire”.

living rent-free

If something lives rent-free in your head, it means that you think about it all day.

main character

Someone who behaves like a main character in a movie or TV show, typically charismatic, independent, and self-confident.


Used to describe someone or something that’s merely average (as opposed to good), like your manager.


Something that slaps is amazingly good.


Used when someone is absolutely killing it, i.e. doing very well.


Small and/or adorable.


Portmanteau of “stalker” and “fan”. Used by dedicated fans to describe themselves. Can also be used as a verb.


Short for “suspicious”. Used when someone or something shouldn’t be trusted.

understood the assignment

If someone understood the assignment that means they absolutely nailed something, usually in response to something else.



(passes the) vibe check

If someone passes the vibe check, it means they’re cool or chill.


Used when throwing something away (like your project’s master branch).


Emoji Used when…
👍 someone says “okay” without actually meaning it
💀 someone is dying with laughter; replaces 😂
🤡 someone quotes or says something stupid
😭 showing strong emotions, like laughter and frustration
👀 someone is paying attention
👁️👄👁️ someone is shocked or surprised
🔥 something is lit, i.e. cool or awesome