How’s your vocabulary? While it might already be robust, breaking out the big words will only take you so far these days. It seems that now more than ever, we’re hearing new words and hybrid terms people have created — especially from our kids. And since, as parents, our perpetual mission is figuring out how to communicate with our offspring, having a few made-up words in your back pocket may prove pretty darn useful. Yep, we’ve reached the season of life where we have to ask, “Isn’t that what the kids are saying these days?” But even if you don’t have a tween or teen obsessed with TikTok terminology, made-up words can be a super fun topic to discuss around the dinner table with younger kids.
So, with that in mind, keep reading for a whole bunch of made-up words you can use to strike up a conversation with your family. Some of these terms people use in everyday life, but many of them might be entirely new to you. Go ahead and try them out! After, if you want to pad your ever-expanding vocabulary even more — and, by proxy, your kids’ — carve out a few minutes to learn some cool travel words, descriptive nature words, or, for the foodie families out there, interesting words to describe food.
Common and Famous Made-Up Words
You’ve probably heard these words before and might not realize that they are totally made up. And some of them were so popular when they came out that they will probably never leave our minds again.
The dinglehopper was a fork from a sunken ship that Disney’s Ariel and Flounder explored in The Little Mermaid. She didn’t know the term fork, so her prized possession was called a dinglehopper. You can use it today for anything you don’t know the name of.
Example: “Suzie, can you come by and give me a hand. I don’t have a clue how to get this motor going. I fiddled with the dinglehopper and everything!”
After writing the hit song and album with the same name, LA-based band Red Hot Chili Peppers made the word Californication trendy. But a fun fact is they didn’t actually invent that word. A combination of California and fornication, the word appeared on a 1966 cover of Time magazine describing “the haphazard, mindless development that has already gobbled up most of Southern California.”
Example: “I’m watching so much TMZ lately. I’m getting sucked in by Californication.”
Those who use this word often mean to say “regardless.” Regardless is already a negative, and adding “ir” makes it a meaningless double negative. Also, there’s a general preconception that people who use the word irregardless are trying to sound more intelligent.
Example: “Irregardless of your opinion, the fact is that you’re wrong.”
George W. Bush accidentally termed this word. It essentially means to underestimate by mistake. While you can underestimate and misestimate, misunderestimate is not a “real” word, despite its usage.
Example: “Don’t misunderestimate me!”
A word made famous by the legendary Cookie Monster, noms as a noun means “food.” It’s derived from nomnom, which references pleasurable eating noises we make while eating something tasty (like cookies!). Nom can also be used as a verb.
Example: “Candy! Nom nom nom!” or, in verb form, “I nommed the whole pizza!”
Phony Phrases That Sound Cool
These made-up words sound so cool you’ll want to start using them right away.
1. A Crapella
No matter how good you think you sound when you’re rocking out with your headphones on, let’s be real — it isn’t always pretty. A crapella describes that headphone-listening-type-of-singing.
Example: “What’d you say? I couldn’t hear you over my own a crapella.”
2. Air Stair
Have you ever walked down a flight of stairs and suddenly stepped down heavily on a step that isn’t there? You just found an air stair.
Example: “I hit the air stair so hard I thought I broke my foot.”
You know when you catch your kids in a foiled attempt to do so, and the litany of finger-pointing explanations begin? Like, “This wouldn’t have happened if [insert sibling’s name] had just done what they were supposed to do!” That’s blamestorming.
Example: “They were too busy blamestorming to come up with a decent solution.”
As a parent, you might not know this term — but you’ve likely taken advantage of the phenomenon. It describes someone’s propensity to pass out as soon as the car starts moving. (Remember all those rides around the neighborhood when your kid was little because they’d only sleep in their car seat?)
Example: “Baby needs a nap, so I’m gonna drive around the block a few times and let carcolepsy do the heavy lifting.”
Sometimes a person takes over a conversation by introducing an obscure topic (or bringing up a common one) in excessive and often unnecessary detail. This is nerdjacking.
Example: “When we talked about the cast of the new Spider-Man movie, Sean started nerdjacking the conversation with facts from the comic book.”
Picture this. You and another person are in two toilet stalls next to each other. You’re both waiting for the other to make the first move/splash. You’re stuck in a stalemate.
Example: “We sat in complete silence for several minutes before my neighbor got so frustrated, she decided to end the stallmate by leaving the bathroom.”
This noun means to do what you know is necessary, even though you really, truly don’t want to do it. So, you know, half of parenting. Welcome to the suck!
Example: “I’ve got to bake three dozen cupcakes for my daughter’s swim meet fundraiser. What a suckrifice.”
Phony Phrases That Sound Smart
Despite being totally made-up words, these sound like they could come out of the mouth of the smartest person in the room.
You suffer from destinesia when you forget where you’re going or the purpose of the journey once you get there.
Example: “Damn, I got destinesia. I completely forgot why I went down to the basement.”
Sometimes we have an epiphany that changes the entire course of our lives for the better. And sometimes, we have one that turns out to be pointless, dumb, or incorrect. This is an epiphinot.
Example: “On Friday, I had an amazing idea to make big money that turned out to be an epiphinot when I crunched the numbers on Monday.”
You know when your teen curls up on the couch or in their bed, cocooning in a pile of blankets while they scroll TikTok for hours on end? That blanket cocoon is their internest. Get it? Internet + nest.
Example: “Willow, crawl out of your internest — it’s time for dinner!”
This one hits differently once your kid enters the double-digit era. What’s it mean? Well, it’s the level of histrionics only achievable by tweens.
Example: “My preteentious 12-year-old just rolled their eyes and said I ruined their life because I bought cinnamon Life cereal instead of regular.”
Have you ever answered your phone only to realize it was a bird chirping outside or sound from the TV? Ringxiety is when we confuse the sound of a cell phone ringing with a sound similar to it. The term can also be used when you hear no sound at all but still imagine the sensation of your phone vibrating even when it doesn’t.
Example: “I keep hearing my phone vibrate in my purse even though my phone is off. Total ringxiety.”
Whereas ringxiety describes the feeling of imagining your phone is ringing or vibrating when it isn’t, textpectation describes another form of digital nervousness: the anticipation you feel waiting for a response to a text you’ve sent.
Example: “I texted Maria to ask if she wanted to switch carpool days, and she hasn’t responded. The textpectation is killing me!”
Gen Z Words
Wondering what the kids are talking about on TikTok? Here are some of the most common terms.
Cheugy is an adjective that describes millennials who try too hard to be in Style or trendy.
Example: “My mom tried doing a TikTok dance yesterday. She’s so cheugy.”
As a surprise to many, ded means “lol” as if something was so funny it killed you.
Example: “That girl’s joke had me ded!”
For those of us still holding onto swag, this is essentially the same idea — it’s when someone has a cool, sexy sense of style.
Example: “Donald Glover has some serious drip.”
This acronym stands for “If you know, you know.” Use IYKYK to describe an inside joke or something that wouldn’t make sense to most people.
Example: “Last night was insane! #iykyk”
5. No Cap/Capping
In this context, cap means “lie.” When someone says “no cap,” it means they aren’t lying.
Example: “Coach said I’m starting in the game tomorrow, no cap.”