Are You 'Oomf'? This Gen Z Affectionate Slang Is Taking Over. (2024)

Are You 'Oomf'? This Gen Z Affectionate Slang Is Taking Over. (1)

Illustration: Jianan Liu/HuffPost; Photo: Getty Images

“I have not seen oomf in a while. I think they are mad at me...”

If you understand what this sentence means, congratulations, you’re probably extremely online and know that it stands for “one of my friends.”

For those unfamiliar, it’s a slang term of affection that has recently been popularized online by Gen Z, but has existed for years. On X, formerly Twitter, it has been used as a hashtag to mean “one of my followers” since 2010, according to Dictionary.com. People often use it online to talk about other social media users they interact with.

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*at my funeral*

my mom: why is billie eilish here?

me: thats oomf 😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭 pic.twitter.com/O1iKU2GuGR

— tati 🐈⬛ (@avocadopillz) April 4, 2024

oomf you have to stop. you post too good. your demeanor is too silly. your pics are too hot. they'll ban you

— Alexius (@Alexius_sc2) February 2, 2024

But oomf, by definition, is not necessarily your one good friend. When you call someone your “bsf” (best friend) or “bff” (best friend forever), your friend has the certainty of knowing they have a close spot in your heart and are treasured by you. But anyone can be oomf, and that’s part of the word’s appeal ― it gives people a way to covertly gossip.

“I recently tweeted...‘Oomf is dating a 32-year old man, and I don’t approve of it.’ I will fully admit I use that to sneak-diss my friends that I can’t fully confront in person,” said Chloe Forero, a 21-year-old content creator based in Naperville, Illinois, who made a popular TikTok video explaining the meaning of “oomf.”

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Forero says that she uses oomf more online than out loud, but she and her friends also “use that term in real life. I’ll be like, ‘Oomf is pissing me off.’”

Forero said that if she were in a public place like an elevator and she wanted to continue gossiping with a friend, but not be direct about who she was talking about, she may call them “oomf.” “It’s a joke but it also gets the point across,” she said.

In 2015, when she was 13, Forero said she first encountered the word while reading someone else’s Instagram post about how oomf was irritating them. She agrees that “oomf” has had an online resurgence in the last year, particularly on X.

“A lot of people in my age group are in some way trying to reconnect with whatever internet presence they once had, because the internet does shift so quickly over time,” she said. “And [oomf is] no longer as nonchalant or casual as it once was.”

A linguist explains why young people love ‘oomf’

If you feel old and out of the loop to learn about oomf, that’s by design.

Jessica Rett, a University of California, Los Angeles, professor in linguistics, said that every generation innovates language, and they do it for roughly two reasons: to obfuscate and to innovate.

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“They don’t want us to know what they’re talking about,” Rett said. “And it’s really just a way of sort of setting themselves apart from old people like me.“

Rett explained that “one of my friends” is also a pseudo-partitive in English that eliminates “the possible presupposition that there’s only one friend that you’ve got,” which may be particularly important for younger people to signal.

And it’s also simply fun to say. Sure, you could simply state “one of my friends” to be cagey about who you are talking about, or you can proudly declare “oomf.” There is a unique pleasure to its construction. Rett said ‘oo’ is a pleasant, rewarding long vowel that causes your lips to round when you voice it.

“And the ‘mf’ ending...I think that just sounds like a party in your mouth,” she added. “It sounds really emphatic.”

Because its definition is inherently uncertain, oomf can be as frustratingly vague or as tantalizingly close as you want it to mean. Oomf can be your frenemy, your occasional follower, or a member of your inner circle.

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“I could definitely be at my friend’s funeral, and be like, ‘Oh, my God, oomf died.’ Like I would definitely post to Twitter, ‘oomf died crying-emoji,’” Forero said, noting that she always writes oomf in lowercase.

Embrace its many meanings, or be open to trying it yourself ― at least until it becomes uncool again. “I would give it a year or two before it hits its expiration date once again,” Forero speculated.

“My number one advice to people in my generation and older is just to embrace it and appreciate it for the linguistic genius that it always is,” Rett said. “These young kids are sort of subconsciously innovating language, and they’re hip enough to pull it off.”

In the meantime: Can oomf share this article, please?

Are You 'Oomf'? This Gen Z Affectionate Slang Is Taking Over. (2024)
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