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Unless you’re very lucky, it sucks to be dating in the modern world. It often feels like everywhere you turn, you’re being ghosted, love bombed, or you’re trapped in a complicated situationship that never quite makes it to the next level. Many of us long for the perfect partner, but in reality, you’re not going to find them without sifting through some duds. While this may sound bleak, dating can have its perks if you know how to play the game.

Apps like Tinder and Bumble allow us to meet someone new at the drop of a hat. However, this convenience often leads to an overall lack of commitment and a higher likelihood of being ghosted. Potential partners are hesitant to lock things down thanks to underlying fears of commitment and the possibility of meeting someone better. This can lead to a cycle of casual sex and undefined relationships that leaves all parties feeling unfulfilled, disconnected, and often resentful.

Since it often feels like the only way not to fall victim to the minefield of modern dating is to always be one step ahead, knowing the latest verbiage is an essential place to start. Here are 20 modern dating terms to know before putting yourself out there.


One of the most commonly used modern dating terms is “talking.” Using it around someone born before 1990 is likely to result in a confused look, but “talking” is the modern-day “courting” – the gray, undefined stage before making things official but often after hooking up.


You’re sleeping with someone, going on dates with them, spending all your time together, and barely talking to any of the other people on your roster, but you aren’t exclusive? Sorry, you’re in a situationship. “Situationships” are relationship purgatory and can often last longer than actual relationships because of how complicated, undefined, and non-committal they are.


While it may sound similar to a situationship, an “imaginationship” is even scarier. Imaginationships fall dangerously between a harmless crush and an obsession. Someone is in an imaginationship if they’ve made themselves believe they’re dating someone solely out of the infatuation they have. Unbeknownst to them, celebrities like Harry Styles and Shawn Mendes are in millions of imaginationships.

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In today’s dating world, there is no concept as indicative of how disposable we’ve become than the idea of the roster. A “roster” refers to a metaphorical list of people that someone is seeing or “talking” to at any given time. After a prolonged situationship that doesn’t go the way you thought it would, you may have to rebuild your roster to keep you romantically busy.


Being ghosted is one of the hardest realities to accept in today’s dating scene. Since technology allows us to ignore or block someone whenever we feel like it, a relationship can go down the drain in an instant. To be “ghosted” is to have someone cut off communication with you without any warning or explanation.


“Benching,” also known as bread-crumbing, is when you’ve been seeing someone for a while and they have potential, but you aren’t sure if you’re ready to commit to them. Instead of letting them know, you may just bench them. You’ll still spend time with this person, but they haven’t quite made it to the top of your roster.


“Gatekeeping” is a term used in dating contexts, but it’s not exclusive to dating only. To “gatekeep” is to deny others access to someone, something, or a particular community. It is also indicative of a hierarchy of power within a community that encourages excluding others from entering or being involved. You can gatekeep a new guy just as you can gatekeep a new beauty product or your friend group.


“Gaslighting” is an extremely common term these days, and it doesn’t always have to apply to relationships, either. Gaslighting can be done by friends, family, and even co-workers. When a person lies or manipulates someone in an attempt to project the blame off of themselves and make the other person feel accountable, they’re gaslighting. Rather than take accountability when confronted, a gaslighter will shift the blame onto you, often in a way that makes you feel unreasonable or like you’re overreacting.


When you’re dating around, you may have multiple people on your roster in case one hookup is not available. But when you’re seeing someone you’re starting to like, you may want to have a few other people you keep around to chat and flirt with. In this case, you’ll you’ll have a “cushion” to soften the blow if things don’t work out with your first choice.


We’ve all heard of catfishing, but “kittenfishing” is a lesser form of catfishing. Kittenfishing occurs when someone uses older or highly edited photos of themselves to make them look better on a dating app. While the photos are technically of the correct person, they give a misleading impression of what they look like.

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“Roaching”  refers to that all-too-familiar situation when you’re you’re seeing someone, the relationship hasn’t been defined yet, and then someone you know sees them on a dating app or out with someone else. Like the word suggests, the person is acting like a cockroach, and they suck.

Love Bombing

“Love bombing” is a form of emotional manipulation that involves someone showing you an intense and overwhelming display of affection, attention, or flattery in order to lock you in, usually for their own benefit and validation. While it may seem like true love or a dream come true at first, love bombing can be very damaging to your mental health and is actually a form of emotional abuse.


“Orbiting” is a dating term you may not know, but have definitely experienced. The word describes someone ghosting or rejecting you and continuing to linger around anyway, whether they’re still hitting you up once a month or continuing to “like” your Instagram pics. They’re orbiting – buzzing around but never getting close enough for anything substantial.


The term “zombie-ing” refers to when someone from your past suddenly resurfaces. This happens when you run into an ex you haven’t seen in a long time, or if they reach out totally out of the blue. Always be wary of the intentions of someone who zombies.


So, you’ve been seeing someone for a while now, but you still haven’t met any of their friends or family. Chances are they’re “stashing” you. The word speaks for itself, but it means they’re keeping you from the people in their life in a roundabout effort to avoid commitment.

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Green and Red Flags

Two of dating’s more straightforward terms, “green flags” indicate something good about someone you’re seeing, while “red flags” represent a detractor or warning sign. A green flag may be that they pay for dinner, smell good, or text you immediately after a date. A red flag can range anywhere from mommy issues to making you wait a week for a text back.

Sneaky Link

Your sneaky link can be the same person you’re in a situationship with, but a “sneaky link” is someone no one else knows you’re seeing. Being someone’s sneaky link could mean the two of you are just taking things slow, but it becomes a problem when your unofficial partner doesn’t want people to know they’re involved with you.

The Ick

“The ick” is one of many obvious red flags. Getting the ick from someone means being turned off or grossed out by them, seemingly out of nowhere. Causes of the ick can range from hearing the way a love interest talks about their ex to finding out they don’t wear deodorant.


This may be one of the newer terms you’ve heard, but it’s actually been around for years. “Rizz” refers to the amount of “game” or “swag” a person has; that intangible “oomph.” If you’ve got rizz, you probably get laid a lot.


At the end of the rainbow is a pot of gold with the words “cuffed” engraved onto it. After all the situationships, imaginationships, red flags, and icks comes the stage of dating that makes it all worth it – if you’re lucky. To be “cuffed” is to have finally locked down a serious relationship.

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