The west coast is the best coast, filled to the brim with varying cultures, landscapes, and walks of life.
Up north you’ve got the historic Bay Area, a region known for its hustle and bustle, narrow streets, and fog so omnipresent it has its own name; Carl. Just outside of this area you’ll find yourself immersed in a redwood forest with trees shooting up into the sky that has been around for thousands upon thousands of years.
Head south and you can talk a walk with the stars along Hollywood Boulevard or snap an Instagrammable pic in front of the iconic Hollywood hills sign. And that’s just the beginning when it comes to art, history, music, beaches, and all other incredible things Southern California is known for.
When you’re exploring the Golden State, you can easily find a style of life, environment, and cuisine to your liking. As the third largest state in the country, it's no surprise you can find exactly what you’re looking for here - whatever that may be.
But, when it comes to striking up a conversation with local Californians, outsiders can sometimes feel like they’re speaking a whole other language.
That’s where we come in. We want to help you blend in with the Californian vibes and get yourself acclimated to the local lingo.
Why you need to know California slang
At the time this article, California’s population is a whopping 39.35 million. That puts California at the top of the list of most populated states in the country, leading Texas by nearly 10 million people!
It should come as no surprise that word, even slang, travels fast when you consider both the population and diversity across the state. As with any local tongue, California slang is constantly changing and evolving with the masses. If you’re planning a visit, do your homework and freshen up on the latest so you can be sure to blend in flawlessly.
So why bother getting to know Californian slang and colloquialisms anyway? Because they will help you to:
- Avoid any possible miscommunications
- Make long-lasting friendships in the Golden State
- Not stand out as much as an obvious tourist
- Gain a better understanding of the West Coast way of life
- Simply expand your English vocabulary and conversational abilities!
If you’re looking for more general American slang expressions from across the U.S., click here.
General California slang
It doesn’t matter what region of the state you are in, prepare yourself to hear any of the following California slang terms.
|Come up||Something of value or an opportunity that comes unexpectedly|
|Cruise||Come or leave|
|Dude||Gender neutral term of endearment|
|Butthurt||Extremely upset for no reason|
|Drag||Inhale a cigarette|
|Swoop||Take or steal|
|Post up||Stand around with doing much|
|Bail||Leave a place|
|Bum||To have or borrow|
|Rock||Wear clothes with style|
Los Angeles slang words and phrases
While the above section is a more generalized collection of California lingo, each popular region tends to have a certain twang to it.
Los Angeles, the City of Angels, is just one of five counties in Southern California and is home to just shy of 4 million people. Aside from the above section’s terms, you can hear Angelinos using these phrases as well:
|Los Angeles slang||Meaning|
|You know||Sentence filler, get agreement from listener|
|No yeah||Agreeing with you|
|“The” before “freeway”||Example “Take THE 405 to Sepulveda”|
|May gray / June gloom||Marine layers over the coast|
|Legit||Not fake, real|
|Like||Sentence filler, used instead of “said”|
|Down||Okay with something|
|The industry||Film or television industry|
Orange County slang
Orange County is located south of Los Angeles County and is another of the five Southern California counties. The population of Orange County sits at 3.17 million.
This coastal region is often known for its surfer vibes, and, of course, surfer slang. In addition to the California slang, you can anticipate hearing the following slang in Orange County:
|Orange County slang||Meaning|
|Sick||Very skilled, awesome|
|Grom||Beginner or young kid|
|Gnarly||Good or bad|
|Dude||Exclamation or friend|
|Dope||Very good or cool|
|Bro, brah, bruh||Buddy|
San Francisco and Bay Area slang
There are nine major counties that make up Northern California, with San Francisco being the most widely recognized. Despite being less than 47 square miles in size, San Francisco county boasts a whopping 875,000 people.
Not surprisingly, this region has its own set of unique San Francisco slang, including Bay Area slang:
|San Francisco slang||Meaning|
|Yadadamean||You know what I mean?|
|Tryna||Want to or trying to|
|The City||San Francisco|
|Slaps||Really good (typically music)|
|Put on blast||Embarrass someone in public|
|No “the” before “freeway”||Example “Take 101 up to SF”|
|Outta pocket||Out of line or inappropriate|
|Hyphy||Rowdy or overly excited|
|Hecka||PG version of very|
|Finna||Going to (fixing to)|
San Diego slang
San Diego is yet another popular Southern California county that is so south, it shares a border with Mexico. The county has a population of 3.32 million people, with their own slang differentiating them from the surfer slang of Orange County.
|San Diego slang||Meaning|
|Scoop or scoop||Picking someone or something up|
|Clutch||Coming in handy|
|Zonie||Arizona locals that swarm San Diego in the summer|
|Kook||Someone who pretends to be a skater or surfer but is not actually one|
|Hodad||Someone who is not a surfer but hangs out at the beach|
|Chulajuana||US/Mexican border slang|
|Santa Anas||Dry hot winds blowing in Southern California|
|Pero like||“But like” Spanglish term|
|Daygo||Inner city neighborhoods of San Diego|
Sacramento County is located in the central region of the state of California, but is often associated with Northern California and shares some of its slang. Still, the capital county of the state hosts just over 1.5 million residents, which have their own slang as well.
|Up the hill||Lake Tahoe|
|The Delta||Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta|
|The Sierra||Sierra Nevada|
|Old Sac||Old Sacramento|
|The claw||During leaf season scoops up leaves from the streets|
|The W-X||Traffic on the stretch of I80/50 between W and X streets|
Silicon Valley slang
Santa Clara County is most commonly referred to as Silicon Valley, which encompasses 13 Northern California Cities. This booming tech hub is home to over 3 million people, of which speak in their native tongue.
|Silicon Valley slang||Meaning|
|Zombie mode||Staring into your device or phone|
|Unicorn||Startup valued over $1 billion|
|Three commas club||Net worth > $1 billion|
|Tech bro||Guy who works in tech|
|Phubbing||Ignoring someone by being on your phone|
|Dogfooding||Company testing its product|
|Brogrammer||Computer programmer cool-guy|
|Beta||Having the inside track|
California slang FAQs
1. What are some California text slang abbreviations?
|Text slang abbreviation||Meaning|
|Nbd||No big deal|
|Wya||Where are you at?|
|Fsho||For sure, agreeing|
|Imho||In my humble opinion|
|Lmao||Laughing my ass off|
|Yolo||You only live once|
|Fomo||Fear of missing out|
2. What are some slang names for California by locals
- The City
- The Town
- Old Sac
3. What are some other need-to-know common California phrases and lingo?
The most important thing to distinguish yourself as either a NorCal-er or SoCal-er in terms of California sayings is how you talk about the freeways.
As mentioned, the Bay Area are firm believers (as are the rest of the country) in simply naming the freeway/highway by the number. For example, you’d take 101 to San Francisco.
But, you’ll immediately know you’re in Southern California the second you stop for directions and someone tells you to take “the 5” all the way down. It’s a simple nuance, but it makes all of the difference in the two major regions of the state.
Lastly, never, and we mean NEVER, refer to California as “Cali” unless you want to stick out like a sore thumb. “Cali” is the abbreviation used for California that only non-natives use. Not only do local Californians never use this slang, it actually rubs them the wrong way.
Hope you’ve enjoyed the come up, dude!
California is easily one of the most diverse states in the country. Only supporting the facts is seeing how many different local slangs can be found across the state. So head west, bro, and don’t forget to have a good time and bring our list of California slang words with you, yadadamean?
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