9 Commonly Used American English Sayings for Millennials and Young Adults

So, you are learning English, and want to speak like an American? Here are some commonly used American sayings, idioms, and words. These are words that are typically only used by young adults, or people in the public eye, such as reality stars, performers, etc.


I bet you thought you knew what ‘read’ meant. It has taken on a whole new meaning for millennials in America. There’s a saying to read the situation. It means to understand what is going on. For example: ‘When I got mugged, it was so dark I couldn’t read the situation.’

Now, ‘reading someone‘ means to say secrets or just honest things, but it is almost always mean or damaging to someone’s reputation.


This is a very trendy adjective to describe a person who is needs and wants attention. This is most definitely an insult. Reasons you might call someone thirsty:

  • They post an Instagram pic that seems needy or desperate for attention.
  • You go out, and all they want to do is hit on people.
  • Anything the Kardashians do.


Shade is mean or hateful words or actions towards someone or something. The range of ‘shade’ depends on the situation. It could be playful with a friend, or it can be truly mean.

If you’re calling someone ‘thirsty’, you are also throwing shade. I’m not a historian, but my guess is that this derived from the term ‘shady’. Shady refers to someone’s character as being untrustworthy, mysterious, and generally makes you feel uneasy.

Then, the term ‘shady‘ started to be used to describe something someone says or does. For example: Calling that girl thirsty, was shady. The act of saying she is thirsty, was kind of rude and mean, but might hold some truth. Now, throwing shade refers to the act of saying ‘She’s thirsty’.

*eating popcorn*

This is an unspoken motion, of pretending to be at a movie theatre eating popcorn. Let’s suppose two of your friends get in a fight, and start throwing shade at each other. A reaction could be to pretend to be eating popcorn. This means ‘this fight is so good, I’m going to sit back, eat some popcorn, and watch the show’. You’ll see this a lot on American reality shows.

It is what it is.

This is a timeless saying. It means that whatever happened, it happened you have to keep going with life. It can also allude to a sentiment of not being able to change the past.

Example: ‘I’m sorry you didn’t get into Harvard’

Response: ‘It is what it is.

ded 💀

Okay – we all know ‘LOL’, but the millennial generation has taken it one step farther – dead. It means you are laughing so hard you have died… yes, died. We are a very dramatic generation. You can see it spelled dead, deed, ded, or simply the skull emoji: 💀.

Side Hustle

Everyone these days have a side hustle. A side hustle is a job, hobby, or way of making money. Typically it’s not the main source of income, and sometimes you have no income from the side hustle. Typically your side hustle you enjoy doing. Many people start side hustles, hoping to one day make it your main job.

Netflix and Chill

Okay… there are two sides of this phrase. On one side, ‘Netflix and Chill‘ is millennials’ favorite thing to do. Instead of going out to the bars, you stay home and watch Netflix.

Now… if you are on Tinder or talking to someone romantically… it can mean a totally different thing. If someone asks you to Netflix and Chill, most likely you will watch 10 minutes of something, and then start doing other things… I’ll leave it at that.

Non native English speakers – be careful throwing around Netflix and Chill! If you are dating someone, they might think it’s a ‘booty call’ (you only want the person to come over to have sex).


Basic‘ can be an adjective to describe a person or thing that has nothing unique or cool about it. A person who is ‘basic’ wears what everyone else wears, is neither attractive nor unattractive, and has no amazing qualities. Calling someone basic can definitely be shady.

That’s our roundup of millennial American words, sayings and idioms.

Comment below with your favorite American sayings!



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