What is Slang? Definition, Examples of Slang

Slang definition: Slang involves the use of words or phrases that are considered informal language

What is Slang?

Slang is words or phrases that are informal language, and it is typically seen used in speech more often than writing. It can be specific to a particular group of people or context; therefore, the meanings of the words may not be apparent to all people.

Examples of Slang

The slang term “hang loose” refers to giving someone the advice to calm down and relax.

Modern Examples of Slang

Here are a few examples of more modern slang:

  • The term “lit” refers to something that is amazing.
    • Did you see her new car? It was lit.
  • The phrase “on fleek” refers to something that has reached perfection.
    • My hair was on fleek this morning.
  • The term “crib” refers to someone’s living quarters such as a home or apartment.
    • Hey, you want to spend time with my friends and me at my crib?

The Function of Slang in Literature

Slang allows for the creative changing of language by people. While some slang terms will eventually fade out of use, it allows for the people of a generation to create a unique way of communicating with one another.

It should be noted that slang is more appropriately used in verbal or informal conversation; therefore, in literature, slang is used sparingly and is typically reserved for dialogue in order to show a character’s subculture or personality.

Examples of Slang in Literature

In The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the slang used reveals the time period in which the story is being told. An example of 1920s slang can be found in the line,

  • “He saw me looking with admiration at his car. ‘It’s pretty, isn’t it, old sport?’ He jumped off to give me a better view.”
    • “Old sport” is a slang term used between upper class gentlemen as a term of endearment.

In Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange, he develops his own slang called Nadsat that reflects the dystopian society in which the story is being told. In fact, many people use a glossary in order to decode the words as they read in order to make sense of the novel. In the beginning of the novel, Alex beginnings telling the reader about the society in which they live in and the milk bar that he and his friends frequently visit, “There were three devotchkas sitting at the counter all together, but there were four of us malchicks.”

  • Devotchkas = girls
  • Malchicks = boys


Define slang: In summation, slang is a term that refers to informal language that is specific to a particular context or group of people. Slang may be used in literature in order to establish the setting or personality of characters involved in the story.

Final Example:

In many young adult novels, slang is used to show that the characters are part of the teenaged subculture.

In Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower, the protagonist, Charlie, narrates the story and even stops to explain some of the slang used by the teens in his school.

He first uses this to establish his unpopular status in school, “I keep quiet most of the time, and only one kid named Sean really seemed to notice me. He waited for me after gym class and said really immature things like how he was going to give me a ‘swirlie,’ which is where someone sticks your head in the toilet and flushes to make your hair swirl around”. In this example, the slang term is “swirlie,” and he stops to explain to the reader what this term means.