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Urban Dictionary

We often get questions about slang words listeners see in the newspaper or (more likely) hear in movies, TV programs, and songs. The problem with slang is that it keeps changing. Words that were slang five years ago may no longer be used. Slang tends to be very short-term, although some expressions do have a longer life.

In general, I don’t recommend second language speakers use slang words, especially “new” slang, unless they really understand how it should be used and in what contexts. This is often difficult for a non-native to figure out. It is best, in most cases, just to speak in “normal” English, and avoid using slang that you don’t completely understand.

One place to look for definitions of slang is the Urban Dictionary. This is a Wikipedia-type of website, where readers submit definitions and sample sentences. This is a good place for slang that comes from recent songs or movies.

Note: There is also a lot of vulgar or “bad words” on the website, so use it carefully. Also, remember that because this is a site where anyone can submit definitions, not all of the definitions are correct. Look for words/phrases that have at least five or ten definitions to make sure you are getting the right idea. And don’t think that because it appears in Urban Dictionary, it is a common phrase. Most of these words are not common – again, look for words that have lots of definitions to get an idea of just how common it is (or Google the word or phrase and see how many websites have it).

~Jeff

7 Responses to “Urban Dictionary”

  1. ESL Podcast Google Group Says:

    I know Urban Dictionary and sometimes I go there in order to find a definition. Even thought it is my last choice.

  2. Robert Says:

    As a second language speaker who has been learning “normal” English for years, I’m always confused about what slang words really means mostly when I hear them in the movie. In my opinion, it is surely necessary to learning to know the definitions of slang, but you don’t have to use it. Moreover, you should avoid using it, for it might be rude for you to blurt out.

  3. Grzegorz Says:

    Can someone tell me what “cheers” (I’am not sure if spelling is all right) means in british english? Is it “thank you” or “bye” or both?

  4. Sean Says:

    Every country has her own slang. In China, slang always comes from the website, for most Chinese who don’t often surf on the internet cannot understand the exact meaning of slang.

    For example, can you guess the meaning of the following sentence “You’re so Mars” in Chinese?

    I’ll tell you the answer tomorrow. :)

  5. emiliano Says:

    Cheers before drinking mean “health”, also may used to say thank you or goodbye, but I think the most comon use is “health” before drinking when there are some friends or family together and just take up glasses and hit them to express good wishes one to onother.
    Cheers Grzegorz, but there is proverb that says takes bad luck to cheers with water in the glasses, I don’t think so as for many years I always cheers with water.

  6. maria Says:

    In my opinion you use this word when you’re drinking f.e. a beer with friends (as a toast; raise a glass to somebody)
    [in polish we say “na zdrowie!”].
    I also see another using: when somebody is sneezing. “Bless you” (cheers is frolicsome or facetious, not formal).

  7. Andrew Says:

    “Cheers” comes from when one hand hits another one in Theatre. In general it means “for your heals’ and mostly using when people drinks and wishes each other heals, well etc.
    Please correct me if I mistake..
    Speaking of slang it’s very funny when you’re using these bad words talking with native speakers. They often go red and try pretending deafness or that they don’t understand you…