The Most Confusing Words About Dating And Romance

How millennials get romantic

The new dating scene has created a modified (and improved?) vocabulary for words about dating (except now it’s hooking up). We’ll explain how the slow fade differs from ghosting, and how words like cushioning have taken on . . . new meanings.

Hang out

Dating is as archaic as having a chaperone. Well, almost. At any rate, nobody says “dating” anymore, it’s all about “hanging out” (and, yes, “Netflix and chill” is a variation of that).

Hanging out has much less commitment—less on the line—and so both people can be more comfortable and confident when together. This is one we can get behind; no more awkward first dates, count us in!


Tuning pretty much means “hitting on.” If someone is tuning you, they’re hoping for things to get a bit more intimate. This could mean some serious lurking around your social media or maybe texting late night.

If you’re into it, you might do a little happy dance. If you’re not, you’ll probably resort to a move that comes next in this list.

Slow fade

The slow fade is when a relationship suddenly fizzles and fades. Fewer texts, fewer Snaps, fewer DMs. (That which doesn’t kill us . . . .)

If you’re given the slow fade, don’t desperately flail for more attention because that may lead to our next term . . . and no more communication at all.


Ghosting has been around a while now (It’s even in the dictionary!), but we need to include it as there is no current replacement. It means a sudden disappearance, a person who is suddenly not answering texts, phone calls, or social media. Sadly, they’re just not that into you.


When someone you’ve ghosted makes a sudden reappearance in your online world, floating around and letting you know they’re there, it’a a haunting. If they try to get in touch with you, as if they’ve always been there, commenting on your feed or suddenly DMing you, it’s zombie-ing.

Better stock up on the wooden stakes and the sage because we hope you’re over them and their sudden disappearances. You deserve someone from the living world.


Breadcrumbing may seem like a lighthearted and friendly kind of flirting, a random message here and there, a playful “hi” or “what’s up” to check in. But, it’s actually just enough contact to lure a target into imagining the realm of the possible relationship, when in reality there’s no chance. The crumbs might lead to a night of fun, but more often than not, they’re really simply feeding a slightly hungry ego and keeping one’s options open.


This one seems a bit cruel. Cushioning happens when a person is in a relationship, but they keep flirtations open (tuning-radar on!) with a handful of potential dating partners . . . just in case. Is this insecurity? Or covering all the bases? You decide.

Laybe or layby

Similar to breadcrumbing, a laybe (we’ve also seen layby) is someone with the strong feeling that their relationship isn’t going to last much longer than leftover Halloween candy. And so, they have tuned into a couple of strong prospects . . . just to be prepared. More than the casual breadcrumber, a laybe really hates being single and is ready to make the leap without much hesitation.


A new dating relationship can bring on a buzz like nothing else. And, nothing can kill it dead quicker than an ill-timed request to DTR (“define the relationship”). Some people need it spelled out, others like to just let it happen organically. If you’re going for a DTR moment, be prepared for it to go as wrong as it might go right.

Sometimes, a definition can be confusing (we should know), so don’t be afraid to ask for synonyms. Because if you’re asking for a DTR, you might as well go all in.


Getting benched isn’t good, especially in relationship lingo. A person might bench someone they’ve dated, along with a couple of others, as a way of saying, “I’m just not sure yet!” How long should a person remain on the bench, hopeful to get into the game for good? Well, if we knew that, we’d be writing the Millennial Dating Guide for Dummies. (Not a bad idea!)

Catch and release

For some, the chase is as thrilling as the catch, or even more so. As implied, catch and release is all fun and games, at least for the person doing the fishing. These people don’t seem to have qualms about the release part and the seriously hurt feelings that may result. Sounds like as much fun as getting a hook caught in your throat.


We’ve all known someone who is really into the drama of their ex and the act of breaking up. The worst thing for someone looking for a relationship is to date a person who is seriously exing. (Psst: Hey techies, how about an “exing-detector” app to help us all out?)


This one may be somewhat dubious, but we like it. “I’m bringing my . . . um . . . friend to breakfast, hope you don’t mind.” An umfriend is someone not yet defined but with whom some intimate time has been spent. A friend with benefits? A romance in the making? Nah. For now, just an umfriend.

What are some other words millennials taught us?

Maybe they didn’t coin them, but they sure made them popular. Here is a list of words made popular by millennials (that we now can’t live without)!

Click to read more
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