Modern Dating Terms That Haven’t Quite Made the Dictionary Yet

Merriam-Webster announced their 1,000 new additions to the dictionary for February 2017 yesterday and the internet is reeling from the realization that millennial daters’ refusal to connect emotionally has officially become enshrined in the English language. Now that Merriam-Webster has made sure that you definitely know what ghosting is, we figured we’d supply a cheat sheet for all of the other ways to hurt or be hurt by the dating scene in the internet age.


These mean basically the same thing. Which one you use is simply a matter of preference. They’re all updated terms for “stringing along” a romantic interest. It’s essentially when you like or are attracted to someone enough to want to keep them around as an option, but you have another person you’re focusing your attention on for the time being.

How do you know if you’re being benched? Well, that’s tough. It looks a lot like someone who just isn’t that into you. Best to just accept it and move on. That said, back burning isn’t always bad. Sometimes (and I mean rarely, but it has been known to happen) someone back-burners you becuase they know they aren’t ready to date you, but they don’t want to let you go. To be clear, that also sucks for you, but it’s a nicer way to swallow their reasoning, I suppose.

On the Hook

Putting someone on the hook seems a lot like back-burning/benching, but it does have a slightly different flavor. This is something you usually do to someone who you’ve already dated or slept with or has more reason to be invested that someone you’re just back-burning. Similarly, when someone is on your hook, you might not actually be interested in someone else specific (as with being “benched), rather you know that you don’t want to actually ever want date the person on your hook, but you like the way that attention from them makes you feel so you hit ‘em with a “right now” to keep them around.

How I Met Your Mother has an episode all about this (“Hooked,” season 5, episode 16). Here’s how you put someone on the hook (or how to know you’re being put on the hook):

Fade Out/Slow Fade

I like to think of fading out as “ghosting lite.” You’re not totally committed to going nuclear on someone yet, so you do a hot/cold thing until the conversations and texting just kind of dies. It’s no one’s “fault” per se (except that usually it is led by one party) so the person you’re fading out on can’t really get mad about it. That means that 1) no bridges are truly burned, 2) you can continue to feel like you aren’t a totally bad person, and 3) they’re still an option for later. It’s let active than back-burning, but not quite ghosting. It’s essentially the same idea as writing a character out of a TV show without killing them off—the writers don’t want that person around anymore, but there’s always a chance they could come back.

Drop Off

Dropping off is a lot like ghosting, but it’s a bit more total and complete. With ghosting, the understanding is that everything in their life is exactly the same, the only thing that’s changed is that they aren’t talking to you anymore. You see them on social media, just not interacting with you. You might see them out somewhere, but they ignore you completely (or give you a curt greeting, then disappear). Dropping off is when you think that person might actually be dead or missing. They completely fall off the radar and maybe the face of the Earth, you think.

See, dropping off is when someone not only ghosts, but basically erases themself from existence. Maybe they quietly deleted you from Facebook. Maybe they were kidnapped. Maybe they moved to a different country. It’s really impossible to say and, hate to say it, you will likely never know, let alone hear from or see them ever again for any reason.


If fading out/slow fading is “ghosting lite,” then haunting someone is ghosting 2.0. As the name implies, it’s something that happens alongside or after ghosting someone. It’s basically kicking someone when they’re down. Essentially it’s when someone ghosts you, then treats you like everything is normal on social media. Sure, they might not return your texts, but they are liking your statuses on Facebook, re-tweeting you, double-tapping your Instas, and watching your SnapStory. It’s potentially the most millennial dating trend possible, and we’ve all done it. That said, we should stop because that sh*t hurts!


Now, I’m not sure if this is an official thing, but it’s definitely a thing between me and my friends. This is when someone you’re seeing says something foreboding (“can we talk?”/”hey, so…”/”I’ve been thinking..”/”can I call you?”) and then, before you can respond… three dots. For so long. Then they disappear. Then they come back. And over and over for what feels like an eternity. It’s not necessarily indicative of a bigger trend in the relationship, but nothing can make your stomach sink like seeing those dots and knowing that you’re waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Cuffing Season

We all know what it is, but relatively few people seem to know the term, so I’m here to tell you. Let’s set the scene:

It’s mid-October. All of your friends are single and loving life. But, then, the weather gets a bit colder and you all realize you’re dangerously close to having to venture outside of your apartment during the winter months if you decide you want to get a little frisky. So, you start seeing someone who is fine-but-not-great fairly regularly and you’re dating by Thanksgiving. You stay together until March, when Spring is around the corner, then you break up.

Those winter months—that’s Cuffing Season. It’s a thing.

There you have it—all the dating trends that you never quite had a name for or never quite understood but were too scared to ask about. Merriam-Webster, get on these!