Feedback

10 New Dating Slang Words To Know In 2021

By Ashley Austrew

If you’re dating in 2021, the first step is learning how to speak the language. Thanks to the proliferation of dating apps and social media messaging services, dating now has a solid online component. And just like all the other aspects of our online life (text speak, memes, and emojis), it has its own set of rules and vocabulary. When you’re looking for love these days, it’s totally possible you might get breadcrumbed and orbited on your way to the soft launch. Have no idea what we’re talking about? Keep reading as we help you make sense of 10 trending dating terms you need to know to navigate your dating apps.

1. soft launching

Soft launch originated as a web term that means launching a new website in stages. As dating slang, it means essentially the same thing, except the thing being launched is a new relationship. The term refers to the trend of posting subtle hints on social media that you’re dating someone new—two glasses of wine, for instance—without revealing identifying details. It was coined by actress Rachel Sennet, who tweeted in 2020, “Congratulations on the soft launch of ur boyfriend (pic on story, elbow and side profile only).” If things work out, maybe you’ll level up to sharing photos of each other on the main feed.

2. roaching

It’s an unwritten rule that if you see one cockroach, there are probably more lurking in the dark. That’s where the dating term roaching comes from. It’s described as roaching if a person you’re dating is hiding the fact that they’re involved with multiple other people at the same time. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with keeping it casual or seeing multiple people if that’s what’s been agreed upon. What makes it roaching is the fact that it’s happening in secret. The person might even play it off like they’re only seeing one person. Maybe it’s time to exterminate that connection.

3. Fauci-ing

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, became a household name during the pandemic. He’s so well known, in fact, that he inspired his own dating slang. Fauci-ing is the act of turning down a date because someone isn’t taking the pandemic seriously enough. The term is believed to have been coined by the dating app Plenty of Fish, and it’s gotten so popular that Axios asked Dr. Fauci about it in February 2021. He found it hilarious.

Doesn’t hurt to brush up on the difference between flu and COVID-19 before your next date.

4. zombie-ing

By now, you’ve probably heard of ghosting, that unpleasant phenomenon in which someone abruptly ends all contact with no explanation. But what do you call it when someone who ghosted you suddenly comes back around? Zombie-ing. A zombie, in this case, is a ghoster who “rises from the dead” and contacts you like nothing ever happened. Just like in a real zombie apocalypse, there probably isn’t a cure for the virus. Perhaps the best thing you can do is run away fast.

5. wokefishing

Coined by writer Serena Smith, wokefishing happens when someone portrays themselves as more progressive than they are, usually on social media, in order to impress others or simply because they aren’t as well-versed on the issues as they believe themselves to be. The term is modeled after catfishing, which is when someone assumes a false identity or personality online. Online activism is a part of life in 2021, but misrepresenting your values to get dates doesn’t sound very woke to us.

6. benching

Athletes get benched, or “removed from a game,” all the time. What does it mean in dating? Benching refers to the practice of keeping a potential romantic partner on hold in case others don’t work out. If you’re being benched, the person who is doing the benching might reach out just often enough to keep you on the hook, but they only really invest time in the relationship or come around when they don’t have other options. If dating had referees, there would definitely be a flag on this play.

7. orbiting

Men’s Health has referred to orbiting as “the new ghosting.” It’s when someone breaks off all contact with a person they were dating in real life, but they continue following that person on social media and interacting with their posts and content. In other words, they orbit their ex or former dating partner just like a planet might orbit another celestial body. Of course, it’s normal to stay social media friends sometimes, but if the breakup is fresh or the severing of ties was complete and the person is still reacting to your Instagram stories like nothing happened? Houston, we have a problem.

8. cuffing

Does it seem like everyone pairs up as soon as the holiday season arrives? You aren’t imagining things. The phenomenon even has a name. Cuffing is another way of saying people are committing to a relationship, and cuffing season is “the period during the fall and winter holidays, from Thanksgiving to Valentine’s Day, when people are more inclined to pair up in committed romantic relationships.” Cuffs has been short for handcuffs since the 1800s. Now, the terms getting cuffed and cuffing season are a play on handcuffing oneself to a partner (i.e., being exclusive). While these relationships may or may not go the distance once the seasons change, at least there’s someone else around to fake laugh at your uncle’s bad jokes on Thanksgiving.

Go Behind The Words!

Get the strangest stories of your favorite words in your inbox.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

9. pocketing

Normally, when people are in a new relationship, they want to shout it from the rooftops. That’s not the case with pocketing. Pocketing means keeping someone you’re dating separate, or “pocketed,” from the rest of your life, like not introducing them to your friends, inviting them to events or making mention of your relationship on social media. There are a lot of different reasons why people may pocket a new relationship. Regardless of the reason, it’s safe to say no one wants to feel like they’ve been tucked away like loose change.

10. breadcrumbing

Breadcrumbing is the new “leading someone on.” Typically, if someone is breadcrumbing you, it happens via text and social media. They engage in occasional chats and messages, and they might even flirt, but they don’t intend to actually pursue a relationship. If anything, they might just be in it for the ego boost. The metaphor of breadcrumbing might remind you of Hansel and Gretel—and the trail of crumbs they left behind—and that’s exactly what this term references. Someone is leaving just enough of a trail to string you along. Take note: breadcrumbing can happen with exes, too. They might pop up just when you’re starting to move on. Normally, we aren’t ones to promote dating slang warfare, but if you’re a victim of breadcrumbing, that might be an instance when ghosting someone is justified.

Take the quiz

Prove you’re ready to enter the dating scene by tackling this quiz on the lingo you need to know the next time you swipe right.


Ashley Austrew is a freelance journalist and writer from Omaha, Nebraska. Her work has been published at CosmopolitanScary MommyScholastic, and other outlets. For more by Ashley, read: 8 Tips & Tricks To Ace National Novel Writing Month | How To Write A Great Hook That Grabs Your Audience Hook, Line, And Sinker!“Teacher” vs. “Tutor”: Why Most Kids Need Both | How To Create Atmosphere & Mood In Your Writing To Engage Your Readers

Don't get washed away by the terms flowing in from South Korea lately. Learn some popular Korean words and phrases here.

Previous 14 Delicious Bread Terms Everyone "Kneads" To Know Next Understanding Native American Heritage: The Tribes, Languages, And Culture