The Cool Kids Are Calling Us 'Cheugy' Now––WTF Does That Even Mean?

by Sa'iyda Shabazz
Julia Meslener for Scary Mommy, Phill Thornton/ Viktoriia Hrypas/ TriggerPhoto/ mphillips007/Getty, Gucci and DSW

If you spend a lot of time on TikTok (or around 20-somethings), there’s a chance you’ve heard the word cheugy. And if you haven’t? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. I only heard about it a couple days ago when one of my supervisors dropped it in our work Slack. Immediately we all felt personally attacked by this new term, coined by a Gen-Zer of course. Those kids really have it out for Millennials, which is a weird flex, but who can keep up frankly? Upon more research, I learned that this cheugy (pronounced chew-gee with a hard “g”) thing is really beginning to take off. Being a cheug seems to apply largely to older Millennials that are women, but apparently it knows no age or gender expression. It’s similar to being “basic,” but a bit more specific.

And where did this word come from exactly? Funny you should ask. Gaby Rasson, a 23-year-old software developer from Los Angeles coined the term way back in 2013 when she was a student at Beverly Hills High School. It was made up by a literal teenager the year my kid was born. No wonder most Millennials are cheugy; we were adults when the word was created.

“It was a category that didn’t exist,” Rasson told The New York Times. “There was a missing word that was on the edge of my tongue and nothing to describe it and ‘cheugy’ came to me. How it sounded fit the meaning.”

Pretty soon, the word spread amongst Rasson’s high school and summer camp friends. Summer camp. How adorable. Soon, her friends took it off to college with them, then it made its way to TikTok, and here we are.

To be clear, I’m not entirely sure what exactly cheugy is. And I kind of think that’s the point. Like any good 30-something, I looked it up on Google. The more I try to understand, the more I think it’s purposefully vague. A lot of those who are more educated on the subject seem to be like, “if you know, you know” which makes me even more convinced I’m a cheug.

While there are certain things that are almost certainly cheugy, it’s still largely subjective. According to The New York Times article, cheugy “can be used, broadly, to describe someone who is out of date or trying too hard.” Look, I’m a 35-year-old mom. As much as I try to stay up-to-date on what’s trendy, I’m going to fall behind sometimes. I have a full time job and a kid. Admittedly, I’m a total grandma — I have a TikTok and barely use it because I feel a sensory overload every time I open the app. There are for sure things I love that are cheugy. But I’m not going to stop wearing Uggs because they’re comfortable and keep my feet warm. Having cold feet is a literal nightmare, and I’m at an age where it’s comfort over everything. So the kids can call me a cheug, but in 10 years they’ll understand.

Okay, enough about the origin of this new term. I’m sure you want to know what the fuck cheugy is and if the things you like make you a cheug. Spoiler alert, the answer is yes. Here are just a couple things I’ve seen described as cheugy: Pinterest, ‘The Office” tee shirts, Minions, Lilly Pulitzer, and EOS lip balms.

According to a lot of the TikToks I’ve seen (and articles I’ve read) “millennial girl boss energy” is way cheugy. Can’t say I disagree with that. If you have anything from Etsy (or Target) with that script printed on it (you know the one), I hate to tell you, but you’re cheugy af. Still confused? An article from The Cut describes it perfectly: “Think things likely beloved by the high-school classmate who tried to make you join a multi level-marketing scheme.” Now you understand, don’t you? If you own a Life, Laugh, Love wooden sign? Cheu-gy.

“One of my friends said lasagna is cheugy,” Hallie Cain said in her TikTok explaining the term. (Okay, I’m sorry, but that’s wrong. Lasagna is delicious.)

From what I’ve gathered through my extensive research (aka sitting through as many TikToks as I could stand before my head exploded) many of the things that are broadly considered cheugy are based in 30-something, white, female millennial culture. Makes sense — a lot of us are moms and have no fucking clue what’s cool anymore.

Millennial things that are without a doubt cheugy:

  • Loving Chip and Joanna Gaines
  • Shiplap (still don’t understand what that is tbh)
  • Modern farmhouse
  • Chevron
  • That one white rug with the black tribal type pattern (you know the one)
  • An all-white kitchen with quartz countertops
  • Shirts that say things like “yes way, rosé”
  • Adults who love Disney
  • Barstool Sports
  • Tory Burch ballet flats
  • Any sort of wooden decor with words on them in that font
  • Anything you’d find in the home decor section of Target
  • The phrases: adulting, doggo, I did a thing
  • Scarves that are basically blankets
  • Glitter tumblers and reusable cups
  • Cruises

Other things people consider cheugy? Getting married to your high school (or even junior high school) boyfriend. Actually, getting married before the age of 25 makes you the ultimate cheug. If you like The Hype House, totes cheug. (For those who like me, have no idea what that even is, it’s a house in LA where TikTok influencers live.) That Gucci belt with the two gold Gs? Cheug city.

Now that I think about it, me writing this article explaining this word for y’all probably makes me cheugy. Especially because I’m drinking a venti Starbucks chai while I do it. Are my Toms cheugy? Probably. And so are my joggers, but I’m still wearing them.

According to The Cut, cheugy “seems broader, as though it carries less of the misogynistic and classist implications of basic.” They claim that it’s less mean spirited and more self deprecating. I don’t know if that’s entirely true. Because while there are people calling themselves out on TikTok for being cheugy, it’s still mostly used by people in their early 20s to mock things that people in their 30s like. It might not be as explicitly mean spirited, but it’s certainly got some “mean girl” undertones. We get it, millennials are old now. We’re well aware of this, our kids tell us all the time, and our joints audibly crack when we stand up. I don’t think we need yet another TikTok trend to tell us what we already know.

According to Gaby Rasson, “Looking good for yourself and not caring what other people think, that confidence exudes non-cheugyness.” So I guess that most of us millennials aren’t cheugy at all, even though TikTok says we are.