Slang of the 80s: 13 Words & Phrases That We Totally Need to Bring Back

The Me Generation's slang didn't have to go this hard. Rediscover some of the best words and phrases from the 80s.

Published August 18, 2023

There are just some things you might never forget in life — your childhood telephone number, your first address, and the slang that spread through your high school like wildfire. Slang of the 80s deserves special recognition for its creativity and the sheer volume of it.

From Valley Girl favorites to iconic one-liners, these are our favorite 80s slang words and phrases that need to be resurrected.


One of the most 80s moment in Stranger Things, a show filled with 80s moments, was Eleven catching on to the phrase "bitchin.'" At the time, "bitchin'" was a grittier way to say something was cool.

If you've got a new pair of kicks to show off, someone might compliment you with: "Those high-tops are bitchin'."


Some of the best slang words are just amalgamations of preexisting words, like "bodacious," which cleverly combined bold and audacious.

If you're browsing through clothing rack after clothing rack for the perfect concert outfit, you'd absolutely say something like "Thank goodness. I'll look so good in this bodacious jacket."

Gag Me or Gag Me With a Spoon

We've got a lot to thank Valley Girl for. Not only did it introduce us to Nicolas Cage, but it also gave us a whole host of new phrases to pepper into our vocab. "Gag me" or "gag me with a spoon" was one phrase that broke out of the movie and into our lives. It's just a reinvention of saying something disgusts you.

Let's say you ran into your older sister cuddling with her girlfriend. You might curl your lip and say, "Ugh, gag me with a spoon."


Although "gnarly" had been making its way through surf communities long before the 1980s, Fast Times as Ridgemont High really sold it to the mainstream. It's one of those words that can be used in either a positive and negative way, depending on the context, but usually means something really good or really bad.

For example, if you saw someone lawn-chairing themself after messing up a skate move, you might say, "Oof, that was a gnarly slam."


Like a sommelier, swish the word "grody" around your mouth and see how it feels. It's pretty nasty, isn't it? Well, this 80s slang reflects its meaning perfectly.

After a particularly difficult sports practice, you might get a whiff of yourself and say, "Oh ew, I'm so grody right now."


An underground slang that might not've reached your corner of the world was "heads." A shortened form of pot heads, this word specifically referred to people with a stoner aesthetic — whether or not they actually smoked.

During your lunch break at school, you might ask a friend, "Did you ask the 'heads what their plans were for spring break?"


"Legit" is a super versatile example of 80s slang that's still used a lot today. Short for legitimate, it's a kind of catch-all word for anything or anybody that you think is awesome.

Let's say you were walking down the street and saw someone with an interesting constellation of nose and lip piercings. You might turn to your pal and say, "Now those are totally legit."


"Mallrat" is one of the 80s slang terms that belong on Blockbuster's video shelf. The 1980s was the absolute heyday for the mall experience (RIP mall food courts), and kids who spent way too much time wasting time at the mall would be called mallrats.

Imagine a group of college kids returning home on break and seeing the mall overrun with young teens. They'd probably say, "Ugh, someone call an exterminator, we've got a mallrat infestation."

Rad or Radical

In the 80s, the word "radical" didn't describe someone with extremist political ideologies, but rather something pretty awesome. Often shortened to just rad, radical was an easy replacement for common words like cool, great, and impressive.

If your friend came up to you to tell you that their parents said you could come spend the night, you might say, "Oh radical, I'll make sure to bring that new 45rpm I was telling you about."


If you're a skater or play guitar, you're really familiar with the term "shred." But this beloved and sonically satisfying verb that describes someone playing incredible music (usually on a guitar) or performing incredible skating/surfing runs has roots in 80s subcultures.

Just linger in a skatepark long enough and you'll hear one of the intrepid skaters shouting, "Look at that kid shred!"

Sloane Ranger

Hop across the pond for a minute for this 80s slang term. "Sloane Rangers," sometimes shortened to Sloanes, referred to a specific upper crust British aesthetic that many traditional Brits wore.

Walking through the nicer parts of London, you might turn to your friends and ask, "Did you clock that Sloane Ranger coming out of the store?"


"Wastoid" is a visceral word that sounds just as satisfying today as it did 40 years ago. One of the most common insults you could get called, wastoid was a derogatory way to call someone a waste of space.

Imagine a classmate pestering you about your new outfit. You'd probably toss back, "Oh shut it, wastoid."

What's Your Damage?

You can thank Heathers, the late-80s film that revitalized the tired teen genre, for giving you such a cutting retort as "What's your damage?" If you don't deliver it with the appropriate eyebrow raise and over-exaggerated inflection, then you're not doing it right.

Back in the day, "What's your damage?" was a particularly harsh way of asking someone what was wrong or why they were acting weird. For example, if someone had been pestering you all week long asking for a pair of your socks, you might ask "What's your damage?"

The Me Generation Knew How to Dish It

If time traveling ever becomes a thing, we're sorry for whatever poor soul has to traverse his way through the heavily slanged conversations of the 80s.

If you're not in the know, these iconic phrases and words can make any conversation seem nearly incoherent. But, what we will say is that the Me Generation definitely knew how to dish it out.

Trending on LoveToKnow
Slang of the 80s: 13 Words & Phrases That We Totally Need to Bring Back