14 Bay Area Slang Words We All Need To Start Using

Holly Lay
Holly Lay

I went to San Diego State thinking it would mostly be surfer bros and Southern California natives like myself, but boy was I wrong. This whole new culture was full of Baydestrians from The City or The Town, people from Sactown, and others from San Jose who were conflicted as to whether or not they could claim ‘The Bay.’ I’m a huge fan of language and culture, and the reality is the Bay Area has some of the most unique vernacular in the United States, and when used properly, it’ll make your life easier and more fun:

1. Hella

Let’s start with the most obvious one. Hella can be used as an adverbial substitute for ‘very’ or as an adjective in place of ‘a lot of.’

Adverb: “I’m hella tired.”

Adjective: “There’s hella people here.”

2. Tryna

‘Tryna’ is – as you might assume – a shortening of the phrase ‘trying to,’ but not in terms of an effort you’re currently trying to accomplish, it’s a substitute for ‘would you like to?’ or ‘do you want to?’

“Tryna eat?” would translate to: “Would you like to get something to eat?”

This is some great slang that takes the impetus of the decision off of the recipient, because it doesn’t require a “No, I’m not that hungry right now, sorry.” All you have to say is “Nah,” or “Not tryna eat.”

3. Good Looks

‘Good looks’ is a shortening of the phrase ‘good looking out,’ which is a variation of ‘thank you for your help and consideration.’ It’s best used when someone answers a request for information (typically via text), or when someone does a favor for you.

“What chapters did he cover for the quiz?”

“Chapters 1-4.”

“Good looks.”


“You missed the quiz but I turned one in with your name on it.”

“Good looks!”

4. Yee

‘Yee’ is a variation of ‘yes’, but it’s a way of agreeing to a plan or statement with a level of excitement that doesn’t always necessitate an exclamation point.

“You tryna drink tonight?”


5. Cutty

‘Cutty’ is an casual adjective you can substitute for ‘sketchy.’ The noun form, ‘the cuts,’ refers to a dangerous or crime-ridden part of town.

“I was driving through the cuts and got pulled over,”

“Cutty as fuck,”

6. Fasho

‘Fasho’ may not have originated from the Bay, but I’ve never heard someone from NorCal use ‘definitely’, ‘okay’, ‘yes’, or ‘you’re welcome,’ so it’s a versatile word that’s used quite often. All of the following statements could precede the response ‘fasho’:

“I’ll be there in 5”, “Good looks”, and “Cool if I grab a drink from your fridge?”


7. Swoop

‘Swoop’ is a substitute for ‘pick up’.

“I’ll swoop you in five.”

8. Giggin’

‘Giggin’’ is a verb used as a substitute for ‘having a really, really great time’ or ‘completely elated and in your own world, often while dancing.’ It isn’t used as frequently as some of the other words, but it’s unique in that there isn’t really an English word that says as much as ‘giggin’.

“Hella hung over today,”

“Haha, yeah you were giggin’ last night,”

9. On Mommas

‘On mommas’ is short for ‘I put that on my momma,’ which is a way of emphasizing that whatever you’re saying is the truth.

“You banged? I don’t believe you.”

“On mommas.”

10. Fucks with

‘Fucks with’ is a way of saying ‘I enjoy or have a close relationship/bond with ___.’ It can be used in reference to someone or something.

“You fucks with Tapatio?”



“What about Dom Kennedy?”

“I fucks with Dom.”

11. Yadadamean

‘Yadadamean’ is a shortening of the phrase ‘You know what I mean?’ It’s less commonly used today, but it’s a slang relic of Keak Da Sneak and almost as historical as ‘hyphy.’ It can also mean ‘I understand,’ and it’s often shortened to ‘yadada.’

“I’m tryna be out before it gets too late, yadada?”


12. Coo

‘Coo’ is a shortening of ‘cool’ that can be used it two ways. ‘I’m coo off ___,’ translates to ‘I’m over this person or this thing.’ It can also be used to describe a desirable or attractive female.

“You want the rest of these wings?”

“Nah, I’m coo off wings.”


“Kristen is coo.” When used in this way, there’s an emphasis and elongation of the ‘oooo’ sound that begs an agreement, as if you’re saying, “Kristen is so sexy, am I right?”

13. Slaps

‘Slaps’ or ‘slapper’ is a way to describe a catchy hip-hop song, usually pertaining to the way the beat seems to ‘slap’ with bass.

“Damn, this song slaps.”

“Yup, there’s another five slappers on this mixtape, too.”

14. Dusty

I have a friend named Adam who I’d consider the most ‘bay’ person I’ve ever met, almost everything he says is vernacular and I’d always ask for an explanation of his slang:

“Are her friends coo?”

“Nah, her friends are dusty.”

At this point, I considered myself fairly well versed in NorCal slang, but I’d never heard ‘dusty’ and had no idea what he meant. When I asked, he responded in frustration and said I was thinking too hard about the meaning:

“Think about it, would you want to hang out with girls who were dusty?”

“Not really.”


‘Dusty’ is a perfect linguistic example of the constant evolution of Bay Area vernacular, because if ‘dusty’ is simply a substitute for an adjective like ‘undesirable,’ then any synonym of ‘undesirable’ works. Mac Dre, Mistah F.A.B, and Andre Nickatina have immortalized some of these words, but rest assured we’ll have some fresh slang this time next year.

(I’ve omitted the word ‘hyphy’ from the list because I’ve never heard someone use it in a non-ironic way). Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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