A Newcomer's Guide to Los Angeles Slang

A Newcomer's Guide to Los Angeles Slang

By Ani Karibian
September 18, 2020

California is a diverse state with peculiar, popular slang words that can make any newcomer confused. So if you're taking a trip to L.A., you'll likely want to know the Los Angeles lingo. Whether you're spending one day in L.A. or moving here for college, worry not, 'cause our list of Los Angeles slang will have you talking like an Angeleno in no time. Here are the top slang words you need to know.

1. Angeleno

Los Angeles inhabitants or natives refer to themselves as Angelenos.

2. Gnarly 

Dating back to the 1960s surfer culture, gnarly became a slang term for challenging waves. Today, it's used to describe something extreme or cool.

3. Grub

Grub is used to describe food. If your friend asks you if you'd like to order some grub, you know what time it is—may the satisfying meals come your way.

4. Kickback

A kickback is a chill get-together at someone's home; it's like hosting a party without calling it a party. 

5. Righteous

Righteous is synonymous with excellent. It's also a term used to describe the waves in SoCal. When a surfer says the waves are righteous, he/she means the waves are awesome or amazing.

Southern California's surf culture gave rise to many popular Los Angeles slang words.

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6. Rad

If something's rad, it means that it's really cool. For example, "I love your shirt, man—it's super rad." 

7. Grom

Used primarily in the SoCal surfer and skateboarding communities, this unique Los Angeles slang term refers to a youngster, usually under the age of 15, who is a rad surfer or skateboarder. The term is a shortened version of the word grommet.

8. Stoked

When somebody is stoked, he or she is very excited. After receiving an invitation to a social gathering, feel free to tell the host how stoked you are to attend the kickback.

9. May Gray

Although temperatures rise in May, the waters of the Pacific Ocean remain cool, resulting in condensation and cloudy weather. May Gray is a reference to the cloudy spring days that ruin opportunities for sunbathing at the beach.

10. June Gloom

When the cloudy skies continue into June, it's known as June Gloom. Thankfully, by July the weather is prime for sunbathing, surfing, and swimming once more. It's pretty difficult for Angelenos to survive, let alone thrive, without the sun. After all, it is sunny Southern California.

Sunny days are the norm in L.A., but whenever the skies become cloudy in May or June, you may hear the terms "May Gray" or "June Gloom."

11. Heavy

When in SoCal, if somebody says that something is heavy, it has nothing to do with weight; it's all about the emotion, bruh. Something serious that's affecting you is considered to be heavy (like a weight on your shoulders, but not a tangible one).

12. The Industry

Did someone casually mention that they work in The Industry? If so, then you'll know that they're referring to the entertainment industry. Depending on the context and the person, it could mean Hollywood films, TV series, or music.

13. The Orange Curtain

One of the more ironic Los Angeles slang words, The Orange Curtain refers to the physical (yet also metaphorical border) between Los Angeles County and Orange County. In reference to the Iron Curtain, Angelenos enjoy teasing their more conservative neighbor, the O.C.

14. Tight

If something or someone is tight, it means it's super cool or awesome. You'll definitely want to chill with somebody who's known for being super tight.

15. Cruise

In the mood to cruise to that sweet surf shop later? When someone is including the word cruise in a sentence, it's another way to say "come" or "leave." For example, an Angeleno might say, "Cruise by my place later tonight. We're hosting a rad kickback."

Post up with your friends at the beach, and then cruise over to someone's house for a kickback.

16. Post up

In the mood to post up at the beach? When you feel like hanging out somewhere, you'll be posting up with the crew.

17. Fo sho, for reals

As you may have guessed, the slang word fo sho (or, for reals) is short for "for sure."

18. Epic

When used as slang, epic means something awesome, unforgettable, or great. For example: "My skateboarding skills are epic, man. I just can't wait for another unforgettable day at the skate park."

19. Clutch

This word is used when someone or something unexpectedly helps you out in the nick of time. For example: "Thanks, bro, for picking me up. You came in clutch. My car's in the repair shop so I can't go anywhere for a couple of days."

20. The 405 and The 101

When Angelenos refer to highways (especially the 405 and the 101), they tend to insert "the" before mentioning the name of the road. For instance, "Before hopping on the 405, take the 101 to Sherman Oaks."

Los Angeles is notorious for its number of highways, and the locals always put "the" in front of the name of each highway, such as "the 405."

21. Bail

Need to leave ASAP or not in the mood to chill with your besties? It's time you bail on your plans or your crew. Bail means to leave a place suddenly or earlier than planned; it can also mean canceling plans at the last minute.

22. Ride

Ride refers to someone's car. If your friend says, "Hey man, I just got a new ride—you gotta check it out," then you know your friend is referring to his/her car, not going for a ride.

23. Bomb

If you're really diggin' something, then make sure to mention that it's bomb. If a woman is really attractive, casually mention to your friends that she's a bombie (like Scarlett Johansson).

24. Dank

If you want to talk about how delicious your meal is, you can say that your food is dank. Although the term originated for marijuana-related purposes, it's also used to describe how great other things are, such as food (guess there are never enough ways to discuss how satisfying a hearty meal can be).

25. Mental

If you find something to be absolutely or insanely awesome, say that it's mental. "Bruh, did you see that? That backflip was absolutely mental."

Whether skating or surfing in L.A., the term "mental" can be used to describe something awesome or impressive.

26. Roll out

In need of a quick exit? It's time you roll out.

27. Shred

Shred is typically used when surfing, skating, or skiing; when someone's doing these activities well and enthusiastically, they're totally shredding it.

28. Kook

Are you out there lookin' like a fool? If so, don't be surprised if you hear the word kook muttered behind your back.

Using Los Angeles lingo is a lot of fun. Which Los Angeles slang words do you enjoy using most?


Ani Karibian

Ani Karibian

Ani is the content manager for California.com. She savors her time discovering California's hidden gems and writing about the hottest spots in town. She's got an unquenchable thirst for adventur…

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