9 Made-Up Music Words That Are in the Dictionary

3 min read

What was your last earworm? You know, that snippet of a song you just can't get out of your head? "Never gonna give you up...never gonna let you down" might be stuck on repeat, but the music in your head also extends to some made-up words from songs. Some pop lyrics are so popular that words crafted by our favorite songwriters have become common vernacular. Here are just a few words and phrases you use on the regular that stem from some well-known pop songs.


"Prop" has been used as a noun and verb for quite a while, but this version with an "s" entered the OED in 2007, meaning “due respect; approval, compliments, esteem.” It's been used in plenty of hip-hop songs and Hollywood productions alike, but the word’s etymology traces to the Queen of Respect herself. Aretha Franklin reworked Otis Redding’s lyrics in her version of “Respect” to say, “And all I’m askin’ in return, honey / Is to give me my propers when you get home,” which Franklin explained was common slang in Detroit for "props," to mean mutual respect.


Snoop Dogg has always had a talent for rhyming words and avoiding radio censors. Case in point? The term "shizzle," part of a long line of "-izzle" words Snoop has sprinkled into his lyrics over the years. Another 1990s Northern California rapper, E-40, credits Frankie Smith’s 1981 song “Double Dutch Bus” for the origination of the "-izzle" suffix. While Snoop may not have been the original inventor of this altered form of Pig Latin, he certainly made it famous enough that "fo' shizzle" — meaning "for sure" — actually made it into the OED in 2015.


Another popular term coined in the hip-hop world, "bling" is used to describe ostentatious, flashy jewelry, or in some cases, clothing and shoes. The term is thought to come from Jamaica, where it’s used by locals to describe the sound of pieces of jewelry clanking against each other. Rap artist B.G. brought the term to mainstream music in his 1999 song “Bling Bling,” and soon other rappers picked it up — as did the OED in 2002 and the Merriam-Webster dictionary in 2006.


Miley can’t take the credit for this one. Twerking is a dance style with roots dating back to the 1800s, when it was used as a verb to describe twisting motions of thumbs, spurs, or kitten’s tails. So … not too far off from how DJ Jubilee used it in his 1993 release “Do the Jubilee All,” in which he instructs you to “A walk it like a serve it / Like a bounce it like twerk it like.”


Business up front, party in the back — this fun, often laughable hairstyle can be found throughout history, but the word comes from the Beastie Boys’ 1994 song “Mullethead,” which literally provides instructions on how to get the look: “Cut the sides / Don’t touch the back.” While the song is less-than-kind to those rocking this dated ’do, it’s given us a term to laugh along with.


If you’re showing off, you’re "flossin’." So goes the definition as first heard in Lil’ Flip’s song “Way We Ball” back in 2005. The word was already being used in African American slang by this point, to describe people driving slowly through their neighborhoods with the hopes of impressing folks.


This word has a few meanings, but one of its most popular modern-day uses stems from music. "Dope" as slang for "cool" was heard in Jimmy Spicer’s 1981 song “Money (Dollar Bill, Y’all).” It’s more than likely that definition came from one of dope’s other synonyms: drugs or narcotics.


What was Will Smith getting on about in his 1997 smash “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It”? Theories abound that "jiggy" either means wild dancing … or something a little more risque. Either way, the term has stuck around as a way to describe letting your freak flag fly.


Today’s super fans will use the word "stan" as a way to profess their love: “I’m stanning so hard” has become a commonplace verb usage. Eminem’s 2000 hit, about a deranged fan named Stan, was inspired by the sometimes intense fan mail he received.

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