Definition of slang noun from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary



BrE BrE//slæŋ//
; NAmE NAmE//slæŋ//
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very informal words and expressions that are more common in spoken language, especially used by a particular group of people, for example, children, criminals, soldiers, etc. teenage slang a slang word/expression/term see also rhyming slang Word Originmid 18th cent.: of unknown origin. CultureslangSlang words are very informal words. They may be new, or existing words used in a new sense and context. As time goes by, some are used more widely and are no longer thought of as slang. Clever and naughty, for instance, were both formerly slang words that are now accepted as standard. Many slang words die out after a few years or sooner. The regular introduction of new words to replace them helps keep the language alive.A lot of slang words are restricted to a particular social group. Use of slang suggests an easy, informal relationship between people and helps to make social identity stronger. In the 18th century the word slang described the language of criminals, but since then every group in society has developed its own slang terms. The groups that use most slang are still those closest to the edge of society: criminals, prisoners and drug users. Young people also develop slang expressions to show that they are different from older people.The street language of young people changes fast. Street slang includes words relating to young people's attitudes. Young people today may describe something exciting as cool, massive, wicked, or (especially in AmE) bad or phat. If something is old-fashioned or undesirable it is naff. Anything bad is rank or minging. A geek, prat, anorak, nerd or (especially in AmE) dweeb is somebody who seems rather stupid. Going out and having a good time is chilling. As people get older they sometimes keep on using the same slang words and in this way slang may indicate a person's age. The parents of today's young people used great, super, fab, swinging, square or berk and clot, when they were young, and many of them still use these words. Some older people try to use current street slang in order not to seem old-fashioned, though in many cases it sounds odd and inappropriate.A lot of street slang refers to drink, drugs and sex. Many of these words and phrases are not socially acceptable and are widely considered rude and offensive. The expressions pissed, hammered and rat-arsed relate to being drunk. There are many expressions for vomiting (= bringing food and drink back up through the mouth) after drinking too much, e.g. blowing chunks, chundering or (AmE) praying to the porcelain god. Slang words for drugs include smack (heroin) and crack (cocaine). Expressions connected with drug-taking include chasing the dragon (= smoking heroin in tinfoil) and jacking/​banging up (= injecting drugs). Some of these terms have become more widely known through films like Trainspotting. Shagging, screwing and getting your leg over all refer to sex. Other common slang expressions refer to the body's waste functions, e.g. piss, take a leak, have a shit and take a dump. Some words, such as fuck and shit, have become frequently used swear words but they are still likely to offend many people.Slang words are also widely used for things found in everyday life. The television, for instance, can be called the box and the remote control (= the device used to change channels from a distance) the flicker or zapper. The blower or the horn is the telephone. A dive or a hole is a cheap restaurant, bar or nightclub. Money can be referred to as dough, dosh, dollars (whatever the currency) or moolah.Some slang expressions are euphemisms (= ways of speaking about something indirectly so that it is not offensive or sounds better than it is). Many older people use euphemisms for bodily functions, e.g. spend a penny, powder your nose, and visit the bathroom. Some common serious diseases have slang names which are lighter in tone than the formal name, e.g. the big C for cancer . Somebody with a bad heart has a dicky ticker. People use expressions like pass away, kick the bucket or pop your clogs to refer to dying. In business, some companies, instead of sacking or firing an employee, may speak of letting them go or (AmE) dehiring them.Some professions and areas of work have their own terms, often called jargon, which are different from slang. Many people learn bits of the jargon of other groups through television programmes and films about hospitals, law courts, prisons, etc. Some of the jargon used by people who work with computers has also become well known. Most people know, for instance, that a hacker is somebody who gets into other people's computer systems without permission.Extra examples ‘Ruby Murray’ is rhyming slang for ‘curry’. ‘Woofy’ is slang for ‘good-looking’. The gang members use street slang. cockney rhyming slang in army slang in military slang
See the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary entry: slang

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