The Evolution of Slang: From Shakespeare to TikTok


Take a journey through the fascinating world of slang, where language evolves and adapts over the centuries. Slang terms emerge, spread like wildfire, and sometimes disappear, but their impact on communication remains significant.

Historically, slang served as an informal and playful way to express oneself. However, it has also been used to abuse and demean others, making verbal communication a powerful tool for both good and bad. Over time, slang has evolved, reflecting changes in society, culture, and technology.

In the past, Shakespeare introduced numerous words and phrases that are now part of everyday language. Today, modern slang continues to convey evolving attitudes, social trends, and youth culture. The influence of pop culture, technology, and social media plays a pivotal role in shaping and spreading contemporary slang.

With social media platforms like TikTok, slang can go viral, raging through the online world, and reaching global audiences in seconds. However, this rapid dissemination also raises concerns about misuse and misinterpretation of slang.

In this journey through the ever-changing landscape of slang, we discover how language evolves, adapts, and holds power, leaving a trail of impact that shapes our communication and society as a whole.

How Many of Them Have You Ever Seen?
Time Period
Example Usage
1600sSaltyBitter or angry1. "He got so salty when he lost the game."
2. "Don't be so salty about not getting invited to the party."
3. "She always gets salty when someone disagrees with her."
1600sThouOld English for "you"1. "Thou better watch out, she's got a mean right hook!"
2. "I can't believe thou didn't invite me to the party!"
3. "Thou art the best friend a person could ask for."
1500s-1600sZoundsExclamation of surprise or annoyance1. "Zounds, that concert was amazing!"
2. "Zounds, I can't believe I won the lottery!"
3. "Zounds, that movie was so boring, I fell asleep halfway through."
1940sGobbledygookConfusing or meaningless language1. I couldn't understand a word he was saying, it was all gobbledygook to me.
2. The instructions for assembling this furniture are written in gobbledygook, I have no idea what they mean.
3. Don't listen to him, he's just spouting gobbledygook to sound smart.
1920sFlapperA fashionable young woman of the 1920s1. She's such a flapper, always going out to parties and dancing the night away.
2. I love her flapper style, with the bobbed hair and fringe dresses.
3. Don't be such a flapper, just go with the flow and enjoy the moment.
TikTok eraFireSomething amazing or impressive1. "That new song is straight fire!"
2. "Her outfit is fire, she always knows how to dress."
3. "I just tried this new restaurant and their food is fire!"
TikTok eraLitExciting or fantastic1. The party last night was lit!
2. Her outfit is so lit, she always knows how to dress.
3. This song is straight fire, it's so lit!
TikTok eraYeetExpression of excitement or approval1. "I just yeeted that basketball into the hoop!"
2. "She yeeted her phone across the room in frustration."
3. "I yeeted myself out of bed when I heard the alarm go off."
TikTok eraGhostTo suddenly disappear or stop responding1. "I saw him at the party last night, but then he ghosted me and never texted back."
2. "She's been ghosting her friends lately, always canceling plans at the last minute."
3. "I don't want to ghost him, so I'll let him know that I'm not interested in dating."
TikTok eraBaeTerm of endearment for a loved one1. "I can't wait to see my bae tonight, we're going to have so much fun!"
2. "Just got a surprise gift from my bae, they always know how to make me smile."
3. "Spent the whole day with my bae, it was the best day ever!"
  1. Have you ever used or heard any slang terms listed above? What are some of your favorite slang expressions?
  2. With the rise of social media platforms like TikTok, slang terms can spread rapidly. Can you share any instances where you first encountered a slang term through social media, and did it later become a part of your vocabulary?