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A Modern Dating Dictionary

13th July, 2024

Do you know your ‘bae’ from your ‘beige flag’? Or what ‘freckling’ is to ‘cuffing’? No? Not to worry. Here we’ll take you through all the terms you need to survive dating in the modern day.



Your ‘bae’ is your partner, your sweetheart, your S.O. (significant other). The origins aren’t clear on this one, but most believe it comes from the snappier way to say ‘baby’ or an acronym of ‘before anyone else’.

Use it in a sentence: ‘I just got a cushion made with a photo of my bae on it.’


Beige Flag

Claiming your happy place is the ocean, saying you love to travel or telling someone what biscuit you’d most likely be are all beige flags. A ‘beige flag’, coined by TikToker Caitlin MacPhail, is a sign someone is being boring, ordinary or a bit cliché on their dating profile. Yup, it’s ruthless out there.

Use it in a sentence: ‘His dating profile was one big beige flag.’


Cost of Loving

Keep it cheap. That’s what the ‘cost of loving’ is all about. If you’re going on multiple dates each week or having to pay more for the everyday stuff right now, something’s got to give. Thrifty dates include cooking someone a meal or going for a romantic stroll in the park.

Use it in a sentence: ‘The cost of loving is real – last week I took my date to the library to save money.’

Cuffing (or Cuffing Season)

When the days get darker and temperatures drop, it’s ‘cuffing season’. Starting from around September, ‘cuffing’ (short for ‘handcuffing) is when people start coupling up for a short relationship to enjoy the cosy nights in and avoid the pressure of being single at Christmas. The ‘cuffing season’ comes to an end just after Valentine’s Day (naturally).

Use it in a sentence: ‘You can tell that winter’s on the way; all my friends are cuffing up at the moment.'




It’s not uncommon these days for someone to break it off if you don’t share their eco values. Taking long haul flights like there’s no tomorrow? Not a fan of recycling? Can’t stop buying new stuff? See you later. ‘Eco-dumping’ was first used by dating expert Alix Fox who believes our views on compatibility have inevitably lined up with our growing passion and concern for sustainability. So, while ‘opposites attract’, it seems it’s more ‘love me, love the planet’ right now.

Use it in a sentence: ‘I got eco-dumped for putting my sandwich wrapper in the wrong recycling bin.’



‘Freckling’ is finding someone to partner up with when the sun is shining (the warmer weather version of ‘cuffing’). A summer fling (or maybe more?). Named after the short-lived freckles some of us get in the sunshine, if someone’s only interested in being your sweetheart in the summertime, they’re a ‘freckler’.

Use it in a sentence: ‘She only wanted me for the summer love, classic freckling.’




Now you see them, now you don’t. Someone’s ‘ghosting’ you if they suddenly, without any reason, disappear from your life after a few dates. And if you’ve been there, you’ll know how rubbish this can feel. For something even scarier, scroll down to discover what ‘zombie-ing’ is.

Use it in a sentence: ‘It’s been two weeks now and nothing, so she’s definitely ghosting me.’

Green Flag

Green flags mean ‘go’ in a relationship. These are positive signs that you’re in a healthy, happy place together. They could be encouraging behaviours between you both, like respecting each other’s boundaries, or they could be traits in them that show they’re a keeper, like being a good listener.

Use it in a sentence: ‘They also want to have a pet Dachshund one day and that’s a big green flag for me.’



Hard Launch

‘Hard launch’ is a social media relationship reveal that’s often exactly that: revealing. It’s loud, it’s proud and it’s very public. Celebrities have hard launched their coupledom by posting semi-naked selfies together, while others have shared a snap of some full-on smooching.

Use it in a sentence: ‘Oh my god, did you see their hard launch on Instagram?’


Relationship dead and done but feel the lingering presence of someone still around? Your ex could be ‘haunting’ you. Or maybe you’re the one ‘haunting’ them. This is when a person still checks in on their ex’s socials, like watching their stories, but in day-to-day life there’s zero contact between you. It could be a way of slowly letting go, but if it doesn’t feel right or either of you aren’t happy with it, it’s time it stopped.

Use it in a sentence: ‘My ex has been haunting me – they’ve watched all my TikToks this week.’


Probably the most ruthless and unexplainable quirk of dating is the ‘ick’. An ‘ick’ is an instant turn off from a person based on something about them that maybe once seemed endearing. Coming back from the ‘ick’ is almost impossible, and so it’s usually the end of your relationship. The ‘ick’ became well known through Love Island, but it also popped up in early episodes of Sex and the City and Ally McBeal.

Use it in a sentence: ‘The way they do their shoes up just gives me the ick.’


‘ILY’ can be one of two things in the dating sphere, and they’re very different. Either ‘I love you’ as a shortened more casual declaration of love or ‘I’m leaving you’. Context is everything with this one.

Use it in a sentence: ‘I’m really sorry, but ILY.’




When a quick drink isn’t enough to decide whether there’s something more there, enter the ‘Longdez-vous’ (like rendezvous, but not). A longer date than the norm, it’s a way to build a deeper connection and go beyond an instant attraction.

Use it in a sentence: ‘My date was more a longdez-vous than a rendezvous – we spoke for hours after the meal.’



A bit like ‘ghosting’ and sort of like ‘haunting’ (stay with us…), ‘orbiting’ is when a partner breaks things off without any explanation but continues to engage with your social channels. They might like your posts or view your stories, for example. First used by writer Alice Iovine, she says, “Orbiting has me stumped. It seems a particularly puzzling flavour of creeping.” Agreed.

Use it in a sentence: ‘My last date has been orbiting me on socials, but they won’t reply to my texts.’



Red Flag

If green flags mean go, red mean stop right now. Whether it’s a feeling they’re not over an ex or their life plans aren’t matching yours, red flags are signs it’s not going to work between you.

Use it in a sentence: ‘If speaking about your ex all night isn’t a red flag, then what is?’


Does someone ooze personality and have charm by the bucket-load? Then they’ve got ‘rizz’. Some say it’s short for ‘charisma’, but YouTuber Kai Cenat who claims to have come up with it says it’s more about “having game”. If you have ‘rizz’ you’re not just a grade-A flirter, you’re someone who can genuinely connect with a love interest.

Use it in a sentence: ‘They had serious rizz – an absolute charmer.’



We’ve got actress Emma Watson to thank for this one. When interviewed about her relationship status back in 2019 she said, “I’m very happy [being single]. I call it being self-partnered.” Hear, hear, Emma. ‘Self-partnered’ is about embracing the relationship and love you have for yourself, treating yourself as you would a new partner and maybe even taking yourself on a date.

Use it in a sentence: ‘I’ve had enough of dating for a while, I’m going to self-partner.’


Not just friends, but not in a committed relationship? You’ve got yourself a ‘situationship’. A (sometimes) confusing and undefined space between the usual points of dating. Signs you’re in one include both of you seeing yourself as ‘single’ but at the same time having no plans to end what you have going on.

Use it in a sentence: ‘I’ve got a situationship on the go, but it’s nothing serious.’

Sneaky Link

A ‘sneaky link’ is how it sounds; it’s dating but on the down low. Experts say ‘sneaky links’ work when you’re both happy with the situation, but they take a turn when one person isn’t aware they’re someone’s ‘sneaky link’. This term really took off on TikTok a few years ago and is still trending today in the millions.

Use it in a sentence: ‘I’ve got a sneaky link with one guy who I met at work.’

Soft Launch

Unlike the ‘hard launch’, a ‘soft launch’ is posting a photo on social media to hint at a new relationship in a subtle and almost cryptic way, without revealing who your new partner is yet. Maybe it’s a picture of two mugs on a table with the comment ‘Feeling happy with my bae’ underneath it or perhaps it’s a snap of them in the distance during a romantic weekend away.

Use it in a sentence: ‘Did you see that they soft launched their relationship on Insta?’



Being open to dating someone who’s not necessarily your type is (unsurprisingly) ‘untyping’. Especially if dating someone who meets your rigorous tick list isn’t working out for you. A survey from the dating social network Badoo found that in 2022 “more than three-quarters of daters (77%) want to try dating outside of their usual ‘type”.

Use it in a sentence: ‘I think I need to try untyping because dating my usuals isn’t going well.’


If you ‘vibe’ with someone, you really connect with them. It’s a little spark that says there might be something there.

Use it in a sentence: ‘We were really vibing on our date, so I can’t wait to see them again.’




A terrifying dating move, ‘zombie-ing’ describes a person coming back into your life after they’ve ghosted you. You’re probably moving on and in a good place then bam, they’ll send you a message or give you a call.

Use it in a sentence: ‘The cheek of zombie-ing me like that – they’ve spent months ignoring me.’

Phew, and we thought the language of flowers was tricky!