Slang dictionary


or down low or DL [doun-loh]

What does down-low mean?

Something on the down-low is secret or private.

Down-low can also specifically refer to Black men who secretly have sex.

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boi, manosphere, queer, gay adjacent, Kinsey Scale, 🌈 - rainbow emoji , 🏳️‍🌈- rainbow flag emoji
Examples of down-low
she really gave me 100 dollars to keep it on the down low so that she “doesn’t seem racist” 😩
@xabbyhall, October 2018
Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt may lose his license to practice law — after failing to disclose an arrest on suspicion of assaulting a police officer in Virginia...Today Laxalt held an event in Reno, but refused to answer questions from local TV station KOLO “about why he’s been on the down low for the last few months.”
Bob Brigham, Raw Story, October 2018
Also down-low culture. The anti-gay sentiment in black American culture is bad enough that HUGE numbers of gay and bi black guys don't come out, have wives or girlfriends for show, but then hook up with rando dudes on the side, often unsafely, and tend to not get tested either...
@JoeSaikyo, February 2018
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Where does down-low come from?

On the down-low, or on the DL, refers to information that’s kept quiet or under wraps. It emerges in Black slang by the 1990s. Both down and low underscore the slang’s sense of “quiet” and “hushed.”

Since at least the early 2000s, down-low refers to men who secretly have sex (on the down low) with other men. It’s historically used of urban Black men who otherwise present as heterosexual, often married and with children, in a culture where homosexuality has been stigmatized.


Who uses down-low?

One can use down-low in general contexts for information that’s kept secret, discreet, or private (e.g., Keep this on the down-low, but I lost my job).

If a person is on the down-low, that means they are keeping a low profile and staying out of the public eye.

Down-low, however, is very frequently used to talk about Black men who secretly or discreetly engage in sex with each other. The 2007 TV show The DL Chronicles followed men of color leading secret sex lives—and also showcases that down-low is frequently abbreviated as DL.


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