The Dictionary of Slang: How Words Change Their Meaning from High School to College

Going from high school to college brings a lot of changes. With people from all over the world coming to one place, the language barriers when it comes to basic slang can get a little fuzzy.

This mixture of people brings all types of language conflict, from understanding a “Cleveland accent” or arguing over whether to call that Coca Cola ‘pop’ or ‘soda’. There are a few words, however, that suffice as a common ground for all college students.

The first few weeks of college, the misuse of these words certainly separates the freshmen from the upperclassmen. A simple slip of the tongue can break any freshman’s chances of upperclassdom.

“Going out”

High School Meaning: This was a term interchangeable with “being boyfriend and girlfriend.” “Are they going out?” was what someone asked when they wanted to know if two people sealed the deal and made their relationship Facebook official.

College Meaning: If someone in college is asked if they’re “going out,” they’re almost always wondering if you’re hitting up a house party or a bar that night. It’s similar to the high school terminology for ‘partying,’ which meant finding a peer whose parents were out of town for the weekend and crossing your fingers the cops didn’t show up.


High School Meaning: This was most commonly used in adjective form to describe that bitch you don’t like because she changes her personality around different people.

College Meaning: Say the word “fake” in college and you’re talking about the noun—an ID saying a person is above the age of 21 when they’re really not. Oh, and most underagers are under the impression that everyone has a fake, so most of the talk you’ll hear about fakes are really just complaints about needing to have one.


High School Meaning: This word wasn’t used much in high school, but if it was, it was probably a teacher or principal talking about some inflatable-and-popcorn-filled event before a football or basketball game.

College Meaning: “Pregaming” basically refers to drinking before your main event of the night. It can be a verb, but on occasion is referred to in noun form: “the pregame.” It goes a little like this: you pregame the pregame with a shot or two; then you pregame with mixed drinks and a group of friends. You then proceed to a house party, which is basically just a pregame for the bars. Get used to that word, it’s second nature in college.


High School Meaning: If someone said that a person smoked in high school, thoughts immediately went to cigarettes. Marijuana never even crossed our minds unless a person specifically spelled it out: “I’m going to smoke weed.”

College Meaning: “Smoking” is a term that goes hand in hand with “drinking”—either you’re staying sober, you’re drinking, or you’re smoking. And no, not cigarettes.


High School Meaning: Commonly used by high school boys to refer to anything somewhat cool. Like, you know, getting a fresh haircut or a new pair of shoes—“dude, that is so frat!”

College Meaning: Word of advice: don’t use frat as an adjective in college. The “frats” are a noun, and if someone’s talking about them, they’re probably referring to the house parties infamous for drugging their jungle juice and smelling like bad breath and booze.

High school students, you may now consider yourselves to be one step ahead of the game. And college students and graduates, let’s not give the freshmen horrified looks when they tell you your speaker system is “so frat.” Just remember: use these college-student-invented words with caution and you’ll be well on your way to fitting right in.


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