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Hey, Boo! Do You Remember These 15 Old Dating Slang Words?

old photo of young couple in garden setting, teal filter

If you thought dating slang originated with terms like ghosting or breadcrumbing, think again. Popular culture has always included pet names and other unique language to describe all things love and romance. Some of these terms originated in the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s, while others go back even further than that. But all of them helped lay the groundwork for the interesting and sometimes odd dating slang we know and use today. Follow along as we take a look back at some of the most interesting, surprising, and even clever classic dating slang words from decades past. Please note: we’ll be having a frank discussion about sex and other mature dating topics here—but grown-up pants, as always, are optional.

❤️If you’re an old pro at these terms already (and not only as someone’s wingman), try your luck with your quiz to see how well you recall these words.

necking

What people might call making out today used to be known as necking. Necking is a classic term for “kissing, caressing, and other sexual activity between partners that does not involve stimulation of the genitals or sexual intercourse.” This term has been popular at various points throughout the past several decades, but you might be surprised to learn that the one of the earliest recorded uses of necking to mean “kissing” actually occurred as early as 1825.

little black book

These days, people have matches on dating apps and randos in their DMs. Back in the day, they might have had a little black book. This phrase describes “a personal telephone directory [which historically were often small, pocket-size books bound in black] listing girlfriends, or, less often, boyfriends.” While physical address books were more common before computers and cell phones took over, the phrase doesn’t necessarily mean that someone has a physical little black book. Rather, it implied that someone had a lot of dates or was something of a ladies’ man.

going steady

If you’re exclusive with a significant other, it used to be said that you were going steady. This phrase, dating back to the early 1900s, means to “date one person exclusively” because you were seeing the same person regularly (“steady”). Steady, as a noun, could also be used in a similar way to boyfriend or girlfriend as a title for the person someone is dating. For example: He asked her to be his steady.

friend with benefits

This phrase was popularized in the ’90s by the Alanis Morissette song “Head Over Feet,” and later inspired the title of a 2011 movie starring Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis. A friend with benefits is “a friend with whom one has sex without a romantic relationship or commitment.” Today, that might also be called a hookup, though friend (or friends) with benefits hasn’t gone extinct. There’s even a text acronym for the term: FWB.

booty call

Booty call is another dating term that can be traced back to the early ’90s. It’s a “phone call, text message, email, etc., whose purpose is to arrange a meeting to have casual sex.” Booty call incorporates the slang term booty, which has a surprising history. Booty was known as a vulgar slang term for female genitalia in the early 1900s, then evolved as a milder slang term for buttocks by the 1920s. By the time booty call was born, booty (as is common for historical slang terms that objectify women) denoted both a “female body considered as a sex object” and “the act of sex.”

wingman

In the context of dating, a wingman is “a man who helps a friend with romantic relationships, especially one who helps the friend attract a woman.” This dating word was popular in the ’80s and ’90s especially, though it’s still in use today. The term wingman was taken from a 1940s Air Force term for the “pilot in a plane that flies just outside and behind the right wing of the leading aircraft, in order to provide protective support.” Apparently looking for love requires protective support, too.

Dear John

If you find yourself the recipient of a Dear John letter, it’s not good news. The phrase is a name for “a letter from a woman informing her boyfriend, husband, or fiancé that she is ending their relationship.” It’s commonly believed to have been coined during World War II when people were separated for long periods of time and communicated via letter. Historically, Biblical names like John and Jack were such common male names they became generic stand-ins used to refer to any man. Though the phrase Dear John (or its female counterpart, Dear Jane) is not as common now, it is used in the title of a popular Taylor Swift song.

Dating slang has taken many forms—do you know what these terms mean?

keen

Are you keen to learn about the next word on the list? Keen means “eager; interested; enthusiastic.” In the 1950s, it was also commonly used to indicate a crush. For example, someone might say I think she’s keen on him. Attractive or especially likable people were also sometimes described as being peachy keen. The word keen has been used as a slang term meaning “wonderful” since at least the 1910s.

bunny

Some dating words fell out of favor because they were used in a sexist way. Bunny is one of those words. Bunny is an outdated slang term used to describe “a pretty, appealing, or alluring young woman, often one ostensibly engaged in a sport or similar activity.” For example, an attractive woman at the beach might have been referred to as a “beach bunny.” This phrase was popular in the ’70s but quickly fell out of favor. Now, its use is often considered offensive.

boo

Boo might be the original bae (more on this term soon). This ’90s word is an affectionate name for a significant other. The term is thought to have originated in hip hop culture and spread into pop culture from there. Boo may be connected to the French beau or the pet name baby.

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beau

Speaking of beau, this term of endearment means “a male lover or sweetheart.” You might think of it as a fancier, more old-fashioned way of saying boyfriend. Beau was first recorded in English in the late 1200s, but its use as a dating term can be traced back to the 1720s. The word is related to the French beau, which means “the beautiful.”

bae

And that leads us to a much newer term: when you think of Millennial dating slang, it’s hard not to think of bae. This word originated in the early 2000s and enjoyed viral fame throughout the 2010s, thanks to the internet. Bae is “an affectionate term that one uses to address their partner or spouse.” It’s thought to be a shortening of other popular pet names, like babe or baby, and likely originated in Black English. It’s been said bae is an acronym for “before anyone else,” but as fun as this theory is, it’s just a misconception.

rationed

This 1940s slang term has a surprising history. During World War II, rationing goods was common. A ration is “a fixed allowance of provisions or food, especially for soldiers or sailors or for civilians during a shortage.” What does this have to do with dating? Well, rationed also became a sort of shorthand for asking women if they were in a relationship or available. As in, Are you rationed? Comparing women to rationed goods like stamps isn’t exactly romantic, so it’s probably no surprise that this one slowly faded into obscurity.

round the bases

Bases aren’t just for baseball. They also have a history as popular dating terminology. In the ’80s and ’90s especially, people referred to different levels of physical intimacy as bases. For example, first base means to “engage in petting that goes no further than kissing.” Each subsequent base adds more physically intimate acts. Rounding the bases, then, would mean progressing through these acts towards whatever act—possibly sex—was deemed a home run.

parking

If the word parking makes you think of cars, you’re on the right track. Similar to necking, parking is a slang term for “the act of kissing and caressing in a parked car.” This usage was most popular in the ’40s and ’50s, likely due to the rise of car culture and drive-in movie theaters changing the landscape of dating.

Take our quiz

Before you dust off your little black book and check on the ration status of your old boos, make sure you know exactly what these terms mean by reviewing our old dating slang word list. You can get extra thrills by using the flashcards and practice quiz options there before heading over to our quiz to see how solid your skills are in world of dating language.


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: 10 New Dating Slang Words To Know In 2021 | Use One Of These 25 Special Words To Describe Someone You Love | “Teacher” vs. “Tutor”: Why Most Kids Need Both | Show Your Appreciation With 25 Other Ways To Say “Thank You”

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