Pop Culture dictionary

glow up

or glow-up or glo up or glo-up [ gloh uhp ]

What does glow up mean?

Glow up is an informal term for a positive personal transformation, typically one involving significant changes in appearance and style and often also growth in confidence and maturity (and sometimes aspects of personal or professional life).

The term is especially applied to teens and young adults, often as a way to point out how they have “grown into themselves,” perhaps after an “awkward phase.” On social media, the term is often used when posting before and after photos, such as an old school photo and a current photo.

Glow up is also used as a verb, as in I saw him glow up during high school.

Less commonly, glow up is used in reference to more temporary transformations, such the application of makeup.

The term is typically applied to people, but it’s sometimes applied to things, often to be somewhat humorous, as in This model is a major glow up from the last release. 

Example: It’s been amazing to witness Grace’s glow up as she has transformed from an awkward tween into a TikTok trendsetter.

Related words

Rapinoeing, sploot, pretty sus, the proof is in the pudding, slap

Where does glow up come from?

4 young adults sitting at a table in a cafe and smiling at a camera phone, green filter.

Glow up is a play on grow up, a common verb phrase meaning “to mature or become an adult.” Like grow up, glow up usually implies a gradual transformation over time. The word glow is commonly used in a figurative way in the context of personal appearance and can also imply confidence. Glow up implies that a person now “glows brighter” or “shines” due to their transformation.

The phrase was popularized (and may have been originated) by rapper Chief Keef, who used the term (spelled glo up—now a common alternate spelling) to refer to a positive improvement in his 2013 song “Gotta Glo Up One Day.” Chief Keef’s play on grow up in the song was also a reference to his crew, known as the Glo Gang.

Many early records of the phrase’s usage on social media made reference to Chief Keef.

Eventually, the term gained more widespread usage.

Examples of glow up

I love it when an ugly baby has a glow up and turns into a cute toddler.
@LinzDeFranco, December 31, 2020
TikTokers are celebrating the glow up with a new trend in which they post old yearbook photos and then reveal what they look like now.
James Crowley, Newsweek, March 31, 2021

Who uses glow up?

Glow up is used as both a noun and a verb and is always used positively. It’s especially applied to teens and young adults. On social media, the phrase is commonly used in the context of someone sharing before and after photos to show a personal transformation.

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This is not meant to be a formal definition of glow up like most terms we define on Dictionary.com, but is rather an informal word summary that hopefully touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of glow up that will help our users expand their word mastery.