Whoomp, There It Is: A Glossary Of ’90s Slang

In honor of the Three-Night Special Event The ’90s: The Last Great Decade? starting Sunday, July 6, the National Geographic Channel is getting jiggy with some nineties nostalgia. 

The 1990s were a magical time: a creepin’ President, boy bands, the birth of modern technology, Gak…  While the decade may be nearly 15 years ago, its presence remains in our culture, economy, and even our language.

’90s slang often came in the form of pre-existing words, redefined to mean something else. “Fresh” and “fly” turned into compliments, “to dip” became synonymous with “to leave,” and “word” morphed from a humble noun to a universal expression of agreement.

The decade was also full of phrases that became part of a generation’s lexicon, no matter how strange (“all that and a bag of chips”) or nonsensical (“hooptie,” “whatchamacallit,” “biotch”) they were.

Whether they were birthed from a popular ’90s movie (Clueless and Wayne’s World alone could populate their own glossaries) or originated generations before, these words helped define a decade. Y2K may have erased these words from your vocab, or you still may use them today, but they’re all worth revisiting.

Take a trip back in time with some of the decade’s best slang:

Jiggy: uninhibited, energetic, sexually excited.
e.g. ‘Can you believe Prince Charles is getting jiggy with Camilla Parker Bowles?’


Cool beans: an expression of agreement or approval
e.g. ‘Want to come over to play Sega? Cool beans.’

Whatever: a response indicating reluctance or indifference, often used to dismiss a previous statement.
e.g.Whatever. I think my new haircut looks cool.’


Psych: a term of disagreement, announced upon fooling someone. Alternate spellings: sike; syke
e.g. ‘Yes, you can have with my brand new Digi Pet…  PSYCH.’ 

Scrub: a person of insignificant standing
e.g. ‘I love Friends, but Joey is such a scrub.’


Phat: cool, fun, attractive; according to urban myth, an acronym for “Pretty Hot And Tempting”
e.g. ‘Your scrunchies collection is phat – they even glow in the dark!’

Buggin’: worrying, displaying behavior that contradicts your normal personality
e.g. ‘My mom is buggin’ because I was using the dial-up when she was trying to make a call.’


Boo-yah: an exclamation indicating extreme joy or triumph
e.g. ‘I scored Smashing Pumpkins tickets for my birthday. Boo-yah!’

Yadda yadda yadda: a substitute for tedious or long-winded talk; “and so on”
e.g. ‘Jack meets Rose, they fall in love, yadda yadda yadda, boat sinks, the end.’


Da bomb: an expression of approval; good, pleasing
e.g. ‘My new Beanie Babies are the bomb. They’re so going to be worth gazillions someday.’

Whassup: a greeting questioning the state of someone’s well-being
e.g. ‘Whassup, want to come over and play with my Troll Dolls?”


What’s the dilly: an inquiry into the state of affairs
e.g. ‘What’s the dilly with the Sixth Sense? Bruce Willis was dead the whole time?!”

Schwing: an exclamation of appreciation or attraction
e.g. ‘Kelly Kapowski? Schwing!’


Off the hook: raucous, exciting
e.g. ‘You should have been at the Cranberries show last night, it was off the hook!’

As if: an exclamation of disbelief and denial, indicating a speculation on the unlikeliness of an outcome
e.g. ‘The president’s getting impeached? As if!’


So, how’d we do? Were our slang choices all that? Are you trippin’ because we forgot your favorite ’90s-isms? Let us know in the comments.

Be sure to check out The ’90s: The Last Great Decade? for even more nostalgia, and don’t miss the three-night miniseries event Sunday July 6th at 9P!


  1. b-dog
    July 1, 2014, 6:21 pm

    u guys goofed…PHAT stands for, “pretty hot and tempting”.
    not, “Pretty Hot And Appealing”
    your fact checker had one job! : )

  2. Zakee Abdul-Hameed
    Albany, NY
    July 4, 2014, 4:08 pm

    I believe YOU goofed, b-dog! The article stated PHAT stands for pretty hot and tempting. Read it again.

  3. YYaWannaNO
    Chicago, IL
    July 7, 2014, 4:36 pm

    They forgot “Word??” As in-

    “Yo, I straight up ACED my Biology final!”

    “You did? Word???”

  4. raykowski13
    Missoula, MT
    October 14, 2014, 11:00 am

    You guys forgot one of the biggest words of the time and that word is “DUH!” people used to use “DUH” ALL the time

  5. James Sweet
    United States
    July 1, 2015, 2:44 pm

    Pffft, stop trying to bring back old slang. Homey don’t play dat! 😉

  6. Pinoy Boy
    February 19, 2:37 pm

    Psych (Sike)

    These are from the 80’s

    Is from the 1930’s it comes from the Zoot suitors

    “What’s up”
    I don’t even think it’s a slang word. People been saying that since the 1960 or earlier.