California Slang: Essentials From the Bay Area and Beyond

Updated May 21, 2021
california slang amped
    california slang amped
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    Used under Getty Images license

California slang is popular all over the world thanks to television and movies. But which slang makes you sound like a legit Californian, and which slang is best saved for the Hollywood set? Keep reading for the best slang from all over California, including Southern California slang and Bay Area slang (and yes, they're different!).

When you think of California slang, you're probably thinking of Southern California. Whether you're a valley girl from San Fernando or a bro from NoHo, there's more to Southern California slang than "like" in every sentence. You'll get the hang of it soon — just don't call California "Cali" unless you want to sound like a tourist!

Slang Word/PhraseMeaningExample
downready or okay with somethingA bunch of us are headed up to Carp this weekend, you down?
likean interjection or sentence filler; also used instead of "said"And then he was like, "Sure, I'd love to see a movie with you."
for realseriousAre you being for real about this?
for suredefinitelyI'll for sure ask my dad if we can borrow his car.
gripa lotYou'll make a grip of money at this new job.
legitreal, not fakeThis is a legit opportunity to get our name out there.
May Gray/June Gloomthe cloud cover over coastal California before summer temperatures hitI was hoping for a sunny day today, but it looks like it's still June Gloom.
NoHoNorth HollywoodCome see my new place in NoHo later on.
no yeahI agree with youNo yeah, we should definitely get together tonight.
SigAlerttraffic issue causing a delaySorry I'm late, there was a Sigalert on the 405.
SoCalSouthern CaliforniaSoCal beaches are so busy during the summer.
"the" before "freeway"identifying which freeway you're talking aboutJust take the 101 and get off before you hit the 118.
WeHoWest HollywoodHave you been to the new club in WeHo yet?
yeah nonoYeah no, I'm not coming over tonight.
you knowalso a sentence filler; used to get agreement from a listenerI think a beach party would be fun, you know?

Surfer Slang

Southern California includes San Diego County, Orange County and Los Angeles County. The region often includes some of the Central Coast, including Ventura and Santa Barbara, where Southern California gets its surfer influence. Explore surfer slang that's made its way into popular Southern California slang.

Slang WordMeaningExample
ampedexcitedI'm amped to hit the waves today.
bomb (not "the bomb")really goodThat fireworks show was bomb.
bro, brah or bruhbuddyHey brah, long time no see!
dopevery cool or goodThat band is dope; I'd love to see them in concert!
dudefriend or an exclamation meaning "whoa" or "I can't believe it."Dude! Why didn't you tell me you were coming?
gnarlygood or bad (depending on the context)Good: My brother is a gnarly surfer on his new board.
Bad: Are you okay? That was a gnarly fall.
gromyoung kid or beginnerCheck out the grom; he can't even stand up on his board!
radgreatI know a rad spot for paddleboarding.
sickawesome, very skilledThat dude's truck is sick!
stokedexcitedPeter's stoked to try the new sushi restaurant tonight.

Bay Area Slang

Some of the above words may be familiar to you from social media and television. However, up in the Bay Area, they're more likely to get a chuckle than a high-five. "Hella" is much more at home in San Francisco than "for real." Take a look at these examples of Bay Area slang and you'll sound like a NorCal local in no time.

Slang Word/Phrase

dipleaveThis party is so lame; I'm gonna dip in a minute.
finnagoing to ("fixing to")I'm finna open my own coffee shop someday.
good looks (or good look)thanks ("good looking out")I'll help you with that. Good looks.
heckaveryThat's hecka far to walk.
hellaveryI'm hella excited about the festival this weekend.
hyphyoverly excited or rowdyThe DJ had everyone hella hyphy with his mix.
outta pocketinappropriate; out of lineYou're being really outta pocket tonight.
no "the" before "freeway"using the number of the freeway as its nameTake 101 all the way up to San Francisco.
NorCalNorthern CaliforniaI've lived in NorCal for seven years.
put on blastto embarrass someone in publicMark put me on blast by telling everyone I'd cheated on him.
slapsreally good (usually about music)I've never heard this band before, but this song really slaps.
The CitySan FranciscoCall me the next time you're in The City.
The TownOaklandHow long does it take to get to The Town from here?
trynatrying to, or want toI'm not tryna hear that right now.
yadadameanYou know what I mean?We need a vacation, yadadamean?

Silicon Valley Slang

Like the surfer world of SoCal, Silicon Valley is very influential over the culture and communication of the Bay Area. Several industry-specific buzzwords have made their way into slang both inside and outside Silicon (not silicone) Valley. (But don't call it the Valley — that's either San Fernando Valley or the Central Valley, depending on where you're from.)

Slang Word/PhraseMeaningExample
betahaving the inside trackI've been betaing a really cool new program.
brogrammera cool-guy computer programmerThe bar's full of brogammers during happy hour.
dogfoodinga company testing out its own productWe'll be dogfooding the new samples next week.
jooga cheap priceYou got that for 20 bucks? Hella joog.
phubbingignoring someone by being on your phone (phone + snubbing)The date was awful. He was phubbing me the whole time.
stealth modesecretSorry, I can't tell you our plans. We're in stealth mode.
tech broa guy who works in technology or Silicon ValleyI've dated too many tech bros over the years.
three commas clubsomeone who has a net worth of one billion dollarsJasmine's boss is a member of the three commas club.
unicorna very successful startup company (valued over $1 billion)My brother's company may be a unicorn by the end of the year.
zombie moodstaring at your phone or deviceI want to talk to that pretty girl, but she's in all out zombie mood.

Don't Hassle Me, I'm Local

Once you know how to talk like a Californian, you'll never want to leave. Of course, there are many more interesting facts about California than the way the locals talk! Compare the Golden State with another warm and beachy state with these Florida slang terms you may not already know. You might also want to explore other words for cool. When you're ready to move to a new state, learn some New York Slang words.