How Millennials are Redefining the English Language

European Day of Languages 2019

Some of you might be familiar with the term “Millennials” as well as the terms that have been coined by them. But, I am also pretty sure that there are many who have no idea what I’m talking about. Well, as it happens this article might just be the perfect one for you fam (#WordsUsedByMillennials). Let’s start by defining this cohort which, might I warn, is not very easy to do. The age bracket hasn’t been universally agreed upon but to keep things simple in this post, we’ll define them as those born in the early 80s all the way through to early 2000s. They belong to the generation that has grown up with cell phones, Game Boy, Play Stations, smart phones, Xbox and more importantly, the internet and social media. Now that we know who we are talking about, let us get back to the main subject of this post – how Millennials are redefining the English language (and also to make y’all woke, #WordsUsedByMillennials). Well, I would firstly like to begin by stating that holding just the Millennials accountable for redefining the English language is a big claim to make. English has evolved, been defined and redefined since its inception and if that weren’t the case, we would still be talking in Shakespearean English. Every older generation has blamed the younger generation for diluting the purity of the language and that is exactly what the current situation is as well. Everyone is a lot more connected with the rest of the world as a result of the World Wide Web and that is the only reason why the changes made by this generation are a lot more noticeable. Being so widely connected has unfathomably increased the rate at which new words, definitions, and abbreviations are spread across the world. However, there is no denying that the terminologies and the kind of terminologies introduced by the Millennials are slightly different than what the language has seen so far. We can basically categorize them into three groups:


For more than a decade, texting has been the most common form of communication and therefore, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that those who’ve grown up with gadgets prefer to use shorthand to describe any and everything. What makes this probably the hardest to get a hang of out of the three is the fact that Millennials abbreviate phrases as well. Example –

  • SMH – Shaking my head (in disapproval)
  • NITM – Not in the mood
  • TMI – Too much information
  • OMW – On my way
  • OOTD – Outfit of the day
  • JK – Just kidding

Redefining Words

We are living in the day and age where people can both have a viral and be viral at the same time. It isn’t a novel concept and people have been giving new meanings to old words for decades, the only difference now is that words are being recycled at the speed of lightning and keeping up with these new meanings has proven to be quite challenging! Here are a few examples of such words:

  • Fam – Short for family but used in an endearing way to address a friend (your ‘chosen’ family)
  • Lit – You may have heard someone say ‘That party was lit!’ Well, it wasn’t actually on fire. They just meant that the party was amazing.
  • Woke – This has nothing to do with waking up (at least not the physical act of waking up). To be ‘woke’ is to be socially and politically aware.


Verbing is the process of using nouns as verbs and although this has been happening for decades now, Millennials have made it a lot more common to do so. Here are two examples for you to understand this better –

  • Instead of telling someone to ‘use’ Google to search for something, people just say the phrase ‘google it’. Basically, using the term ‘google’ synonymously to saying ‘search for it’.
  • Another common way of verbing is to add ‘ing’ at the end of nouns. So, instead of saying ‘We will take an Uber to the restaurant’, people say ‘We are ubering to the restaurant’.

Hope this post helps you to understand the Millennial language a little more! Stay woke and keep it real.

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Ojaswini Kalia

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