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5 Most-Used English Slang in 2021 [Illustrated]

Jewel Enrile
Jewel Enrile
March 11, 2022
5 Most-Used English Slang in 2021 [Illustrated]
Illustrations by Yuxuan Wu

You’re scrolling through social media when some words make you stop. They don’t make sense, or are being used in a completely different way. 

I feel you. Even with new memes and terms popping up everywhere, everyone seems to expect you to know what it all means. It took me a while to even know what “on fleek¹” meant or what ngl² stood for. 

But tbh³, there’s no doubt we’ve got more coming this 2022. Before we even think about that, however, let’s have a quick recap – and maybe a quick learning sesh for you! 

We rounded up five of the most-used English slang in 2021. Take a peek: 

#1: "Rona" 

Meaning

It’s a shortened version of the word “coronavirus,” referring to the infectious disease that caused a worldwide pandemic. 

What’s the Context? 

Let’s admit it: saying coronavirus is a mouthful. COVID-19 is pretty awkward, too. 

Rona rolls off the tongue easily. It’s great for casual use! The coronavirus has been around for nearly two years at this point, so it’s no wonder we’ve all decided to give up and just call it Rona for convenience. 

How Is It Used?

“He got the rona last week.” 
“Man, this rona has completely ruined my 2020.” 

#2: "The Main Character"

Meaning

This one’s self-explanatory. Being “the main character” means you’re the one in charge of your life and narrative. You indulge in your individuality. Conflicts and plot twists happen to you and around you! 

What’s the Context? 

There’s been a recent trend on the Internet pushing individuals to romanticize their lives. The trend quickly became tied to romanticizing your identity and being “the protagonist” of your own life. 

Being the main character is also all about oozing self-confidence and being in charge. 

While it can hold a positive meaning, getting called that you act like “a main character” means you might be doing a bit too much. You can come off as arrogant or self-centered, treating people around you like side characters in your life. 

But hey, as long as you’re the main character in a self-loving way, we’re all about bringing that energy into 2022. 

How Is It Used?

“I’m the main character in this neighborhood.” 
“Look at how he acts. It’s like he thinks he’s the main character.” 


#3: "Simp" 

Meaning

Someone who panders or is too attentive to another person. Usually, a simp is someone who fails at getting attention from their desired partner. 

What’s the Context? 

Ever caught a friend being just a bit too infatuated with their crush? If you catch someone putting in so much effort for someone who obviously or aggressively doesn’t return their interests, they’re being a “simp.” 

Though simp was popularized late 2018 onwards, this English slang has actually been around for years. 

It was short for “simpleton” before being used in a number of rap songs in the 1980s. The term usually refers to men “simping” for women, but it’s evolved as a general word you can use. 

(It should be noted, though, that pining after a crush or being respectful and kind towards someone is not being a simp. The word has become so popular that it’s been used for everything, and having normal emotions and courtesy shouldn’t be part of its negative connotation!)

How Is It Used?

“Ah, he’s being a simp for that girl again.” 
“Stop simping for him! It’s not worth it.”


#4: "Caught In 4K"

Meaning

You’ve literally been caught in the act — but in such a manner that there’s no way you can lie about it or defend yourself. 

What’s the Context? 

“In 4K” refers to the crisp clarity of 4K video resolutions. So, to say you’ve been caught in 4K means every action and decision you made was crystal-clear to any witnesses. 

It also helps that we’re in a society where cameras can turn on you at any time. Once you’re recorded doing and saying something unfavorable, it’s all done. You’ve been caught in 4K. 

How Is It Used?

“I told you he stole that pen from my desk. The other girl caught him doing it in 4K.” 
“She can’t run from those rumors now; she’s been caught in 4K.”


#5: "Vibe Check"

Meaning

An initial and subjective assessment of another person’s behavior or personality. 

What’s the Context? 

Have you ever met someone and there was something off about them? You can’t tell what it is, but you know you’re not going to get along well with the other person. 

Well, they’ve failed the vibe check. 

If they’re instantly agreeable, though, then they pass your vibe check. It’s as easy as that. 

This English slang doesn’t have to apply to just people, though! You can also use it for places and things. If you dislike something at first sight, you can just say the vibes aren’t right. 

How Is It Used?

“I met her friend the other day, but she didn’t pass the vibe check.” 
“Oh, this place definitely passes the vibe check. Do you want to check it out?”


In Conclusion

It’s kinda hard to keep up with slang in an age where there always seems to be a new term as soon as you wake up. We fully expect more terms we’ve got to explain in an article soon, but for now, we’re leaving you with these five most used terms in 2021. 

What’s your favorite slang from the past year? Let us know! We wanna keep up with the times - and maybe add them to the Lockcard dictionary (which you should have, btw⁴.) 

Footnotes

¹ Means anyone or anything is stylish
² Stands for “not gonna lie”
³ Stands for “to be honest” 
⁴ Stands for “by the way”
⁵ Being excessive, over the top or dramatic 

(Yeah, we have some footnotes. We wanted to be a little extra⁵.) 

Charlotte Chen, Designer @Duolingo

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