The world of online dating can seem like an unfamiliar country—filled with possibility and excitement, but sometimes hard to navigate. For the uninitiated, an alphabet-soup of abbreviations (WTF does DTR mean?) and a dictionary’s-worth of terminology (what is catfishing, anyway?), not to mention all those emojis (eggplant, anyone?) can be intimidating. Think of this guide as a pocket translator.
Demystifying Online Dating Acronyms
The language of online dating relies heavily on abbreviations. Having a handle on the most common ones can help conversation with your crushes flow.
o DDF – Drug and disease free. For many people, the lowest bar a potential date has to clear (alcohol and cannabis often don’t count!)
o DTF – Down to fuck. If someone is DTF, they’re ready to get physical
o DTR – Define the relationship. If you’ve been on a few dates and want to know where things are heading, it might be time to DTR
o FBO – Facebook official. When you’ve defined the relationship and you’re ready to share your status with the world, it might be time to go FBO
o FWB – Friends with benefits. An FWB is a friend and a sex partner, usually without
expectations of exclusivity or long-term commitment
For the uninitiated, an alphabet-soup of abbreviations, and a dictionary’s-worth of terminology, not to mention all those emojis, can be intimidating!
o IRL – In real life. If you’ve clicked online, it might be time to arrange an IRL date to see if the chemistry translates
o LDR – Long distance relationship. Online interaction can help those in an LDR stay connected while they’re apart
o MBA – Married but available. This term can be used by someone in an ethically non-monogamous partnership—or someone seeking an affair
o NRE – New relationship energy. If your new partner’s got you feeling that giddy, head-in-the clouds intensity, you’re experiencing NRE!
o NSA – No strings attached. A relationship that’s all about the sex, no definitions or commitments necessary
Defining Online Dating Slang
There’s a whole lexicon of slang devoted to the ins and outs of meeting online—particularly its more unwelcome aspects. As in every area of life, communication, respect, and clear boundaries are key to safe and satisfying interactions online.
o Benching – If you’ve been “benched,” you’re stuck on the sidelines as your potential date’s backup plan
o Breadcrumbing – When someone’s not really interested, but keeps giving you just enough encouragement—flirtatious messages, compliments—to keep your hopes up
o Catch and Release – Making enough of an effort to hook someone—only to drop them once they show interest
o Catfishing – The use of deceit—fake pictures, a padded resume—to generate interest from potential matches
o Curve – To curve someone is to reject them in an up-front, straightforward manner
Ghosting: The abrupt, unexplained disappearance of someone you’ve been messaging (or even meeting) with
o Cushioning – Similar to benching, cushioning is the practice of keeping several potential dates on-hand as a “cushion” in case things don’t work out with the person you’re really into
o Ghosting – The abrupt, unexplained disappearance of someone you’ve been messaging (or even meeting) with
o Slow Fade – A more calculated form of breadcrumbing, the “slow fade” occurs when someone ends a relationship by gradually reducing contact
o Submarining – When someone ghosts you, only to resurface weeks or months later, acting like nothing happened
Gender Identity And Sexuality Terms On Dating Apps
You’ll come across lots of terms describing gender and sexual orientation. While it may seem confusing, a respectful attitude and a willingness to learn are key. If you’re unsure about someone’s pronouns or gender identity, pay attention to how they describe themselves and follow their lead. And if you’re still unsure—ask! Most people are open to respectful questions asked in good faith.
o Agender – Someone whose identity exists outside of gender constructs
o Aromantic – Someone with little-to-no romantic desire for others
o Asexual – Someone who lacks sexual desire for other people (but may still be interested in romantic or platonic partnerships)
o Bi – Attracted to more than one gender
o Bi-curious – Someone whose primary sexual experiences/identification have been heterosexual, but are interested in exploring their same-sex attraction
o Butch – Someone who identifies as masculine in appearance or mentality
o Cisgender – A cisgender, or cis, person’s gender corresponds to the gender they were assigned at birth
o CD – Crossdresser. Someone who enjoys adopting the dress of a gender other than their own
o Demi – Demisexual. Someone whose sexual attraction to others is dependent on getting to know them on a more-than-superficial level
o Femme – A person who identifies as feminine-leaning in appearance or mentality
o Gender fluid, genderqueer – Often used interchangeably, these terms describe someone who is neither male nor female, but somewhere along (or entirely outside of) the spectrum of binary gender
If you’re unsure about someone’s pronouns or gender identity, pay attention to how they describe themselves and follow their lead
o Intersex – An intersex person is someone who was born with hormonal or sex characteristics that vary from what is typical for a “male” or “female” body
o Nonbinary – Similar to gender fluid or gender queer, a nonbinary person doesn’t fit into the binary categories of “male” or “female”
o Pan – Short for “pansexual,” meaning attracted to humans, regardless of gender or sex
o TG – Transgender. Someone whose gender differs from the gender they were assigned at birth
o They – Singular pronoun that may be used by agender/nonbinary/gender queer/gender fluid individuals
o Queer – An umbrella term that describes anyone who doesn’t fit into rigid categories of binary gender or heterosexuality
Relationship Styles, Preferences, And Configurations
In addition to potentially unfamiliar terminology used to describe gender and sexual expression, there are many terms that describe relationship styles, preferences, and configuration.
o D/s – A relationship between a dominant (“Dom”) and a submissive (“sub”), in which a mutually agreed-upon power imbalance is central to the relationship
o Ethical non-monogamy – When partners share an agreement that allows one or both to pursue other sexual or romantic partners. In contrast to cheating, ethical non-monogamy relies on open communication and careful negotiation of boundaries
o Monogamish – A mostly monogamous relationship that allows for occasional sexual exploration with other partners
o Open relationship – Similar to ethical non-monogamy, an open relationship allows one or more partners to seek sexual partners outside of the primary relationship
o Poly – Polyamorous. Can describe a sexual identity (someone who prefers to have multiple committed relationships) or a relationship configuration (a relationship with more than two participants)
There are many terms that describe relationship styles, preferences, and configuration.
o Relationship anarchy – An approach to relationships that rejects hierarchies and rules
o Third – The “guest star” in a threesome or hook-up with a couple
o Triad – A relationship between three (usually equal) partners
o Unicorn – A woman who is ready and willing to participate as a Third in a threesome with a straight couple (so called because they are so rare as to be almost mythical!)
Online Dating Emojis
No discussion of online dating terms would be complete without a nod to the mighty emoji. Here’s a quick breakdown of the sexiest ones!
o Eggplant – Plump, glistening, and oh-so-phallic, the eggplant emoji was repurposed to represent a penis as soon as it was introduced. Keep in mind that many people find this one off-putting (if used in a non-joking way, that is!)
o Water droplets – No matter your gender, sexual arousal is often accompanied by wetness—saliva, ejaculate, vaginal lubrication, sweat. The water droplets emoji is shorthand for hot, wet, sexiness
o Peach – From ancient times, the peach has been symbolic of a luscious butt—and the peach emoji is no exception