17 California Slang Terms: How to Speak Like a Californian

Untitled-1Slang is one of the most interesting and fun aspects of a language.

The more slang you know, the easier it is to connect and make friends with native speakers.

People from California love to use and make up their own slang, adding color and personality to the language.

A lot of the slang used in California is also used by the rest of the United States, partly because of Hollywood and partly because a lot of people want to move to California. People from California tend to use much more slang than people in other parts of the U.S.

Also, because of Hollywood and music, California slang gets spread to the rest of the English speaking world as well.

One of the great things about slang is that it makes normal, boring things sound much cooler and more exciting. For example, check out “post up,” “cruise,” and “bail” below (among others).

Here are some of the most common California slang terms that you’ve probably never heard of:

Bail – to leave a place. (Bail also means the temporary release of someone awaiting trial for a crime.) For example, if you’re at a friend’s house and you want to go home, you can say, “Hey man, I’m tired. I’m gonna bail.”

Bomb(ie) – you can say something is bomb when you really like it. When a girl is very attractive, you can call her a bombie. (Bomb also means an explosive.) For example, “Angelina Joline is so bomb,” or “Angelina Joline is such a bombie.

Bum – to borrow/have. (Bum is also another word for a homeless person.) For example, if you order food that costs $8.25 you can ask your friend to bum a quarter.

Butthurt – when someone gets upset over a small thing. You use this to emphasize how easily someone got upset about something so small. For example, Joe got butthurt when Cami didn’t answer her phone.

To call (someone) out – to say someone is wrong. For example, I decided to wait until after the speech before calling him out on his mistake.

Claiminit – what you say when someone is bragging. (Claim also means to state something is true, usually without evidence.) For example, if someone’s talking about how cool they are because they can do a backflip on a snowboard, you can say while rolling your eyes, “Claimin’ it,” or “he claims so hard.”

Clutch – when someone unexpectedly has something that helps a situation. (Clutch also means to grab tightly.) For example, if you buy some wine but you don’t have a wine opener at your house, but your friend has one in his backpack, that’s clutch.

Cruise – another way to say “come” or “leave.” (Cruise also means to sail about for pleasure, often with no desitination.) For example, “Hey man, you wanna cruise over to my place after work?” Or, “Hey man, it’s getting late. I’m gonna cruise.”

Dank – another way to say something is good. (Dank also means disagreeably damp and stale.) This originated from marijuana, but is commonly used for other things as well. For example, “This food is dank, I could eat it every day.”

Drag – to inhale cigarette smoke. (Drag also means to pull something or someone with force.) For example, if someone is smoking a cigarette, you can say, “Hey man, can I get a drag?”

Heavy – when something is very sad or depressing. (Heavy also means something that weighs a lot.) For example, if someone tells you their cousin died yesterday, you could say, “Damn, dude. That’s heavy...”

Mob – similar to cruise, but it usually implies to come quickly, often by foot, bike, or skateboard. (Mob also means a large crowd of people.) For example, if you ask someone to cruise over to your house after work, and they say they don’t have a car you can say, “Just mob, dude.

Post up – to stand around (often leaning against a wall) without doing much. You can use this when telling some to wait for you, “Just post up here, I’ll be right back,” or if you’re in the club, “hey let’s post up by the bar.” This is a little bit like hang out. [link]

Put (someone) on blast – to make fun of someone in front of other people. If someone is making fun of your new haircut at a party in front of other people, you could say, “Yo dude, why’re you putting me on blast?

To rock (something) – to wear clothes/accessories with style. (Rock also means to move gently from side to side.) For example, if someone asked to borrow white sock from me, I could say, “Sorry man, I only rock black socks.” Also, asking someone, “Can I rock this?” is another way of saying, “Does this look good on me?”

Swooped – to steal/take. (Swoop also means a fast, downward movement through the air, usually by a bird.) This is also used when you’re trying to get with a girl and someone else ends up hooking up with her. For example, if you’re sitting in the front of a car and you leave to go to the bathroom, and someone takes your spot, they swooped you (or you “got swooped”).

Part II – 16 More California Slang Terms

Did you think this was it? You’re trippin’ out, bro!

Get pumped for the second part of this series, and learn 16 more cool California slang terms.

Like What You Read?

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  • aleid

    hey,thanks for post , I just wanna say I have been studying ENGLISH for several years ,I’ve read several novels in ENGLISH up to 11 until now and thousands of new york times and the econemist articles not to mention watching a bunch of AMERICAN movies ,songs , reality show . also worth mentioning lived in uk for a year. being an exchange student at MCGIL university for a semester (montreal,canada) still sadly enounter new words, idiom ,pharsal verbs etc.. I feel really blue beacuse of that one reason beacuse wanna to move to learning a third language but if ENGLISH extremely easy as opposed to oriental tonal languages or even EUROPEAN such as salvic or even german took from me this of amount of work and still need to learn more and more , I do understand learning a language a lifelong jorney and there is always room for improvement but this an overwhelming endeavor now my question is it wise to start learning a third language while I still encounter new words in ENGLISH .I will start learning german soon beacuse I need it my company ask me to learn it since they have cooperation with germans companies otherwise they will fire me ,they will pay me all the bills for tutors ,travels ,acommadation,etc .. they asked me to finish b2 within six months and doing bussines courses afterwards , is it possible within this frame time and is true easier to learn a third language than a second language also how i will keep and improve my ENGLISH while studying GERMAN please help I need your insight your answer will be really important for me . about me I am ARABIC native speaker, I am 27 year old ,I will travel to germany 10/6 /2013 just after two months , my plan in german language to listen videos and read for beginner as much as possible when I go there I will work with tutor since they will pay me,so I guess learning process will be speedy than a class room.thanks a bunch in an anticipation .

    • Hey Aleid, thanks for your comment!

      You are correct when you say that learning your third language is easy than learning your second.

      As for whether it’s a good idea for you to learn English and German at the same time, only you can answer that question. How badly do you want to learn English? How important is it to you? Do you have enough time to learn two languages at once?

      Personally, I would recommend you try to practice your English at least a little bit each day, even if it’s only 15 minutes. This could be just doing all of the things you’ve already do like watching movies, listening to music, etc.

  • Marcio

    Good Morning Trevor! your article is awesome man, however I have a doubt and I guess you can answer it. Here in Brazil or at least in the southern side of the country, there are some slang but only a tribe could used like GLS people, it very common they said; That bitch gives a ‘Elza’ : Elza means , roubar. And It’s no usual someone out of that tribe say something like that. So This California Slang above everybody used or some group of people? I mean can I hear a teen or a elder say in the street something like : Post up here, I ‘ll be right back. thanks.

    • Hey Marcio, good question. Many of these words are very common for the younger generation, people in their 20s and 30s who live in California. Unlike Brazil, it’s much more uncommon for elderly people and younger people to speak the same. Most of these words older people won’t use, but they will understand.

  • i need to perform my english

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  • I live in cali and 50% of this is not true…just say’in

    • Justin

      I’m curious, were you born there? The guy who wrote this article is from Huntington Beach, California. I guess that means something.

  • rex

    drag also refers to taking a hit from a bong or joint

  • Mars

    I found this super accurate as an Egyptian livin in Cali, perhaps you wanna add, Broo That Was (Narly/ Gnarly!), haha my fav word! Cheers 😀

    • VoxPopulus

      As a native Californian, may I offer one small bit of advice, Mars? The word “Cali” isn’t used by Californians! And at least within my circles (and they’re both broad AND deep circles throughout my state) that’s considered to be something of a derogatory term.

      • Margaret MacGregor

        Before I moved here I was told not to refer to it as Cali, and also never call San Francisco, ‘Frisco!

        • VoxPopulus

          And you were VERY well-advised, Margaret! Thank your advisors – on behalf of THIS native CaliFORNIAN! (And FWIW, welcome to California – although this may be really tardy – I’d guess you’re probably a full-fledged CALIFORNIAN now, and we’re glad you are!)

          • Margaret MacGregor

            I thank my husband of 20 years!

          • VoxPopulus

            A doubly-wise man, then!

  • BasicWhiteGirl

    i say “gnarly”…lived in California my whole life. and say “man” (when talking to both girls and guys) …like, man, that food was good…oh and i guess i say “like” often

  • R.

    ? this.

    It’s funny because I grew up saying “Cali” for California. As a Coaster (term for West Coast dude), “Cali” was a friendly anticipatory word for cruisin where it’s warm on your day off. Now millennials have made the term a negative 🙁 Don’t they know everyone basically would love to live there or at least visit & like to have a little nickname for their favorite spot?

    Cali was originally coined by Latinos living in California so it bugs me when people down grade it’s authenticity. Not that LL Cool J didn’t have anything to do with bringin it into the mainstream ;^)

    #Cali #dude #Postup

    • VoxPopulus

      As a native Californian (just getting prepared to begin my 6th decade as one, to boot!) that’s the opposite of my experience. It was NEVER a term anyone used – at least those who wanted to be taken seriously! It was always a way of distinguishing between “real” Californians and those who merely wanted to be!! Whenever we heard anyone use that word, eyes would roll – and it was usually because the perp wasn’t from CaliFORNIA! It just sounds more than a little silly, a little – effeminate perhaps. Would a Mississippian call his/her state “Missi”? Or a Minnesotan “Minni”? My Latino friends – by the way – ALSO roll their eyes when they hear that shortened, improper term for our state!

      • Real Life English

        Awesome insight from a Cali native! Much appreciated :0)

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