A-Z of words invented in the 2010s illustration

The A-Z of New Words Birthed by the 2010s

It's been a long decade, lads.
illustrated by Esme Blegvad
17 December 2019, 11:22am

In an era of fake news, political manipulation and memes that spread faster than herpes on a university campus, the way we talk has understandably changed dramatically. Whether it’s old words we’ve dragged into the mainstream, existing words we’ve bastardised the meanings of, or words we’ve simply made up, everything is different now. Life, language, banter.

Basically, the sentence “I’ll Monzo you for the Uber right after I buy these vape cartridges for my short king” would have been completely incomprehensible in 2008. Anyway, let’s take a look at some of the words that entered our vocabulary this decade and understand why none of us can communicate with our older relatives properly anymore.


Time to talk! RT to raise awareness! Get the word out! Whether it’s mental health, deforestation in the Amazon rainforest or Kim Kardashian’s psoriasis, we’ve never been more “aware” than we are now – which would be amazing if we were able to access actual solutions. Unfortunately, the main thing we’ve become aware of this decade is how screwed we are.


All you need to know about the 2010s is that half of it was defined by the most ham-fisted portmanteau in living memory.


Previously a term you would use in reference to the end of a TV show or an event that is no longer taking place, “cancelled” is now what you are when you do too many problematic* things that could range from saying you’d hypothetically shag a Tory to being convicted of sexual assault.

*See: entry for ‘P’.


Previously a term you would use when filtering your GCSE coursework through a thesaurus to make it sound smarter than it was, “discourse” is now a sad sport people play online where they compete for Best Opinion on a subject matter that is either super depressing or completely meaningless.


There’s still a bit of confusion about this, but to clear things up, emotional labour is the work (which tends to fall more heavily upon women) of managing emotions to fulfill the emotional requirements of a job for which you are paid, i.e. being a retail assistant or waiter and having to smile and perform niceties for the general public. Emotional labour is not applying the framework of capitalist exchange to your personal relationships, i.e. responding to a friend reaching out for help with a template text saying you are “at capacity right now”.


The A to Z of Softbois

Previously known as “a bit of a boy” in my nan’s day or “a little twat” until more recently, fuckboy is now catch-all term for boys who cheat, lie, suck your toes before ghosting you and seem to think they’re charismatic enough to get away with it, when in fact they’re a 22-year-old humanities graduate that sleeps on one flat pillow.


Coined by the founder of a fast fashion company that sold cheap feminist slogan tees while mistreating the women who made them and then filed for bankruptcy, “girlboss” could have been a positive message but rapidly devolved into a cynical term for women who acquire a large amount of money, status and power by using the language of gender equality to further their own career. Sad!


A ‘one night stand’, now with added dating apps.


The socialites of the 2010s, only instead of getting blackout drunk and crashing their cars while carrying a bag that costs more than your annual salary, they tell you what to buy from Topshop.


A man who changed politics forever. He may not have been welcomed by the media or the majority of the public, he may not have made it to Number 10, but for young and disenfranchised people across the UK he gave a feeling of hope and unity that hasn’t been seen in British politics for decades – and that’ll last long beyond the 2010s.


See entry for ‘J’.


Minimum wage no longer cuts it in a country where the rising cost of living and precarious terms of employment mean that workers are struggling to make ends meet. Enter: “the living wage”, defined by advocates as the minimum income necessary for a worker to meet their basic needs i.e. pay their rent and eat.


Memes? How old and/or American are you, mate? It’s pronounced “memays” now, because Gemma Collins said so.


An ideological framework for Tories who wear trainers to the office.


A global movement for wealth equality that rose from the ashes of the financial crash in a V for Vendetta mask.


A form of behaviour that is worthy of criticism but not an entirely cancellable offence in and of itself. Examples include: tribal tattoos on white people or Justin Bieber visiting Anne Frank’s house and writing “hopefully she would have been a Belieber” in the guestbook.


A far-right conspiracy theory detailing a secret plot against Donald Trump and his supporters by a cabal of Satanic pedophile elites (Tom Hanks and the Clintons, obviously).


The folder full of screenshots you keep on your camera roll in case you ever need to embarrass a notorious ‘man of the left’ who denies sliding into your DMs at 2AM begging to feed you grapes.


Having a bubble bath, doing a sheet mask, taking a two hour lunch break, being a messy bitch and blaming it on Mercury retrograde to absolve yourself of responsibility. It’s self-care, baby!


This was barely common parlance in 2010 and is now a word you won’t get through 15 minutes of the news without hearing in reference to a political gaffe. Pls... my decade.... it has been so fucking long.


Formerly a German preposition meaning "over", "above" or "across", now an app you can use to hire a driver with no labour rights to shuttle you from a pub to a club in the rain.


Ironic offshoot of the ‘chillwave’ genre that was basically a few dudes in pack-a-macs who knew colour hex codes by memory making smooth jazz on Ableton and uploading it to Bandcamp with artwork containing one or more of the following items: Greek bust, palm tree, fucking enormous sun, something in Japanese.


One of many words lifted from black American culture, plastered across gym bottles and watered down so much as to be completely meaningless this decade!


First invented in 1981, now a fully-fledged epidemic among teens and Soundcloud rappers.


First a hobby and/or laugh, now a vocational career where you can make shitloads of money reviewing phones, unboxing mascara or simply being a cunt.


Because it wasn’t enough to elevate “daddy” into a go-to word for 14-year-olds to hurl at members of BTS on Instagram, we also had to create a superior tier of sexual prowess for more distinguished fellows such as Jeff Goldblum, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Gillian Anderson.