13 Dating Terms to Know, Before You Enter the Modern Dating Scene

Here are 13 of the most current dating terms and phrases for your modern love adventures — and what they mean.

So, here you are. You are single. You are lonely. Your Saturday nights involve tubs of ice-cream and marathons of “My 600-Pound Life.” You have been through a divorce, or you were widowed young (like me). Or maybe you just haven’t found anyone yet that is better than your ice cream.

You are finally willing to “get out there” in the world of dating, but the minute you do, your confusion overwhelms you and paralyzes you. You go onto a dating site or twelve, and immediately, you are met with words and phrasing you don’t understand. What language are these men speaking? What is going on? How am I supposed to date when I don’t even know what the hell these people are talking about?

I hear you, sister.

It’s hard to keep up with modern dating terms and they can be very tough to decipher.

Just when you have learned a brand new term and actually know what it means, it starts going out of style, and is replaced with the next one. It’s like when everyone on earth is in line for the new iPhone 10, and you’re finally getting rid of your Blackberry Curve.

But before you give up completely on what the latest terms mean and how to be aware of them — fear not. I am here to act as your dating dictionary, so that you don’t have to waste your life Googling everything.

Here are 13 dating terms to know, before you enter (or reenter!) the modern dating scene.

1. Catfishing

Okay, we’re starting really simple. This one has been around for awhile now. You may know that “catfishing” is the term for someone online who is lying or tricking someone else as to who they really are — but do you know why it’s called that?

The term “catfishing” is actually referring to literal catfish. It came from an old tale told by a fisherman, about a common problem in transporting cod. During the boat ride, the cod would become under stimulated and bored, causing them to become stale and tasteless. Someone came up with the idea to put catfish in with the cod, so that they would chase the catfish and keep them moving, active, and agile; resulting in a better quality cod.

So, because the catfish were “luring in” the cod, and stimulating them, this term began being used to describe what people were experiencing with online dating. For example, let’s say you develop an online relationship with this great guy named Alex. But every time you ask Alex to talk on the phone or Skype, he has some lame excuse about bad reception. Eventually, you decide to meet Alex in person. But when you get there, it becomes clear that Alex isn’t really Alex. In fact, he isn’t even male. Or the age you thought they were.

Congratulations. You have been catfished.

2. Netflix and chill

One might think this means exactly what it says, which is: “Hey girl, let’s hang out at my place and watch a movie on Netflix and relax.” But no. It is code. What it actually means is: “Hey girl, let’s hang out at my place and fool around with no commitment or promises for anything (otherwise known as “hooking up”). I may or may not show up with a condom. Cuz that’s how I roll! ”

It Is very important to know this phrase, because if you don’t, you would innocently assume you were going to someone’s apartment to watch a movie. When you pull up “My List” on Netflix and they pull out something else, you will then realize you have gravely misunderstood this common phrase.

3. DTR

I had to look this one up myself when a guy I had been seeing for about 2 weeks asked if I wanted to “hang at his place and chill.” Which is just a less impressive version of Netflix and chill. I told him I thought it was a bit too early for that, and he said: “We can hang out. DTR. And go from there.”

He followed this up with a wink-wink type look, but I followed it up by googling: What the hell Is DTR? Turns out it’s a simple acronym. It stands for “Define the Relationship.” Because saying all three of those words took SO MUCH TIME!!! Clearly, we need to abbreviate that. Anyway, that’s what it means. And Mr. Two Weeks clearly wanted to define our relationship as: “come on over and have casual and probably mediocre sex.” No thanks.

young woman talking on the phone

4. FBO

Did you know that if you get married, have a baby, get a promotion, or get fired- that it didn’t actually happen if you didn’t post it on Facebook? It’s true! And if you are involved in a new-ish relationship, it is up to both parties to decide, hopefully mutually, when they will go FBO, or “Facebook Official.” Soon, I expect that people will no longer get engaged. They will simply change their relationship status on their Facebook pages, and declare themselves FBO. This works great for cheapskates — no ring!

5. Ghosting

This is when you are talking with someone or dating someone, and then smack in the middle of your relationship, they just disappear. They stop all contact, with no warning or explanation. It can happen online, with someone you have been seeing for months or weeks or days, and it can happen in a regular relationship that never occurred online.

It happened to me last year. A guy I had become very close with, disappeared, and blocked me from contacting him again. We had been close friends for almost 2 years. This behavior is mean, immature, and spineless. It happens often, it is common, and it is a shame. There is really no way to avoid it, but you can try your best not to take it personally. Anyone who would do this to a person is not someone you want in your life. Doing this is a reflection of them, not you.

6. Zombie-ing

This Is sort of like the sequel to ghosting. This is when the ghoster comes crawling back, out of nowhere, and wants back in your life. They rarely apologize for their ghosting, and usually will try to regain contact with simple chatter such as “Hey what’s up with you lately”, or other lame musings.

It’s not a great idea to let a ghoster back into your life. They have an agenda. Once they don’t get what they need from you, they will move on to their next victim. This behavior is also sometimes referred to as “haunting.” As in, the ghost is back to haunt you.

7. Catch and release

These are lovely men who get off on the “chase”, so they will put a lot of extra efforts into “getting you.” Flowers, flirting, promises galore. Then, once they have your attention and they no longer have to chase you down, you lose your appeal to them and they stop putting in the effort. Then, finally, they get easily bored with you, and “release” you. Dump you.

If a guy comes on very strong and very charming at the start, and it seems over the top, you may be experiencing this behavior. Be careful.

8. Cuffing season

Oh, those long and lonely winter nights can be so burdensome, right? Yes, there is a season for this, and refers to those who want to be part of a couple, only for the cold winter season. To have someone to be with on the holidays, cuddle with, and make passionate love to on cold winter nights.

A warning: as soon as that sun comes out and the weather gets warmer, you might find yourself getting ghosted! If a guy seems a bit too anxious to make you his girlfriend the day before Christmas, you might be headed for cuffing season.

9. Thirst trap

Okay, this one is just weird. This is a dude who puts up an image/picture of himself, usually on a dating site or on social media, with the specific intent on shocking people or getting lots of attention, which is also known as “thirst.” A typical picture might be of a guy’s shiny abs with a beer bottle resting on them, or beach sand placed just right (in the crevice of his rear).

This “thirst trap” type of picture is rarely ever a well-intentioned person. At worst, it’s a scam of some kind to get you to click on the image. At best, it’s a narcissistic dude who gets his jollies every time a new chick clicks “like” on his stuff. Either way, he has no intention of dating you — hence the “trap.”

Young couple arguing in a cafe. Relationship problems

10. Slow fade

Sounds like a romantic movie ending, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, it is the exact opposite.

The slow fade is basically when you are dating someone, and they decide on their own, without informing you, that they are no longer interested in you anymore. So, much like the ghoster who is too spineless to have a conversation about this, they start a gradual descent into not caring. They text you less often, they stop flirting, they suddenly seem like they don’t care. Because they don’t. The communication and effort gets less and less, until you have been faded out of the picture.

This is basically ghosting, in slow motion. It’s “Ghosting Lite” for the jerk who isn’t quite ready to take on the commitment of full-on ghosting!

11. Breadcrumbing

This one is very big on the dating sites. It basically means “to string someone along”. These are guys that will act interested in you. They flirt. They send sexy messages. They compliment you. But it’s all very vague and doesn’t ever go anywhere. It seems like all they want to do is just text endlessly, until one of you dies.

I’ve talked to these dudes many times. They get you hooked on them by appearing interested and charming, then they never follow through with anything. Most of them have no intention of even meeting you in person.

However, this can also happen offline too. Just a string of non-committal dates that are vague and don’t seem to be leading to anything. Sometimes these men aren’t entirely single (but you don’t know that), or they just enjoy lots of casual and lazy dating. Buyer beware.

12. Love-bombing

While the bread-crumber leaves slow and vague trails of crumbs for you to follow, the love-bomber does the opposite. This often involves big grand gestures of romance. Passionate love notes. Roses and promises of trips taken in the future together. Lots of presents. This is to draw you into them, at which point, they begin to reveal the “real” them, which isn’t always pleasant.

A lot of love-bombing is done by master manipulators and narcissists, who can appear charming upfront, but are actually quite controlling and aggressive. If someone comes on too strong too fast, or their “attacks” or bombs of passion just feel a bit too awkward, follow your gut. Things should progress and feel natural between two people. Whenever you feel as if you are a pawn in someone else’s game, you probably are. Pay attention to those early signs telling you this doesn’t feel right.

13. Lay-by

(It’s pronounced like “laying by the side of the road until I decide you are worthy of my attention.”)

This is similar to putting something on Layaway. You want the item, but you can’t commit to it right now. These men put women on “layby” status – they are usually still in another relationship, living with someone, often even married or separated but not divorced.

They are the types who do not like to be alone. They want to have the next person all lined up on stand-by, for when and if this current relationship blows up. So they keep you in the corner, waiting, while they figure out their life. Nice, right? Yeah. Not so much. If you are dating someone and you feel like you don’t always come first for them, you probably don’t. First is their spouse or girlfriend. Then you. Maybe.

Now that you’re fluent in these modern dating terms, you can be on the lookout for terms that aren’t on your terms.

I hope that these definitions are helpful, and at the very least, entertaining. The good news is that, out of all this craziness, I DID actually find love, eventually. Now, you can follow in the breadcrumbs of my misery, and laugh your way to a healthy dating life. And if that doesn’t work, well… there’s always ice cream.

For more reading on modern love, check out this guide to dating apps — and then prepare for the worst (while hoping for the best!) by learning about the 7 most frustrating types you’ll meet on dating sites.