The comprehensive glossary of online dating terms everyone should know

12 April 2018
By Fashion Quarterly


If you’re going to date in a digital world, you need to learn the lexicon. Here we break down the language of love.

It’s party season, so let’s start with Gatsbying. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s protagonist threw lavish soirées to show his unrequited love, Daisy Buchanan, what she was missing out on. Today, we just Instastory up a storm and spend the whole party obsessively checking to see if our crush has watched.

See also thirst trap: a provocative ’gram (i.e. bikini shot) usually posted under an innocent guise (“Stay sun-smart everyone!”) but designed to elicit as many “Up to?” texts as possible.

It’s the inverse of the spray and pray, which involves sending the same text or pic to multiple prospects and then assessing one’s options (usually for the evening) based on what comes back. If you’re on the receiving end of this hook-up strategy, it usually means you’re being benched, which is to say someone is interested enough in you to keep you around, but at this stage, you’re still just one of many.

You can expect to see a lot of this gameplay around drafting season, the precursor to cuffing season, which sees singles the world over attempt to lock down a guy or girl to keep warm with during the depths of winter. Don’t get too cosy — once the sun’s out, it’s time to uncuff.

If you’re dating an actual f***boi, this might take the form of ghosting, a scarier version of the slow fade where, rather than indicating waning interest by leaving longer between texts, a person simply drops off the face of the Earth.


The nightmare sometimes continues with haunting (when the ‘ghost’ starts watching your stories or liking your ’grams again but doesn’t make contact), or zombie-ing (when they come back from the dead, typically with a “Hey! I had a skiing accident in the Andes and the hospital WiFi was sketchy!”-type text). Rough, but better than submarining — when they go off the grid then resurface with no explanation, picking up the conversation like no time has passed.

This murky behaviour sometimes goes hand in hand with a deep like. Often accidental (cringe!), certain psychopaths might deliberately ‘like’ a post deep in your grid to send an unsettling message. If you suspect the latter, do not get caught in this person’s dicksand! Who cares that they’re hot as hell and have moves like Jagger? To be fed tiny scraps of attention that never fully satisfy is classic breadcrumbing, and you deserve better than that.

You’re also too good to be stashed (hidden from someone’s friends and family) or to be used as someone’s cushion (there to break the fall if/when the committed relationship they’re in combusts). The ideal?

To segue a textlationship into a situationship, with someone who won’t make you wait too long to DTR (define the relationship). FBO (Facebook official) is the ultimate goal — good luck!

What’s in a name?

We get it, calling d-bag behaviours silly names can be a useful face-saving mechanism. Being someone’s ‘cushion’ certainly sounds better than being used. But there are times when this cutesy terminology does everyone a disservice, invalidating acts that are at best emotionally abusive, and at worst, criminal.

Top of our list of terms that need to GTFO? Stealthing. Largely perpetuated by braggy frat boys on Reddit, it describes the practice of a guy covertly removing a condom during consensual sex. ‘Stealthing’ makes it sound trivial, but there’s nothing trivial about unwanted pregnancy, STIs, or the ongoing psychological trauma experienced by survivors of sexual assault. And make no mistake — non-consensual condom removal is sexual assault, and in New Zealand could carry a jail sentence.

If it happens to you, do not brush it off in the group chat with an eggplant/crying-emoji combo. Call the Police (111) or the Rape Crisis helpline — 0800 88 33 00.

Words: Phoebe Watt
Photos: Getty Images


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