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I know that Word up! is a versatile expression and its meaning depends on different regions. But in a movie I came across this expression as in:

A: Hey, there's this big banquet for my university nomination, wanna come?
B: No, I have something to do.
A: There's an open bar there.
B: Word up!

I guess it's an enthusiastic exclamation but I'm not sure.
Isn't it like saying Sweet! or Hot dog! when we express enthusiasm?

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3 Answers 3

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The Urban Dictionary says that "word up!" is:

  • an emphatic form of "yes".

The Online Slang Dictionary gives a few alternative meanings:

  • listen to me (as in "Word up boys, its goin' down tonight.")

  • saying hello (as in "Word up bro.")

  • agreement

  • the truth, seriousness, not joking (as in "I love a cloudy summer day, word up!")

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In the 80's, my friends and I used the term constantly as an emphatic form of yes, meaning...instead of saying "yes" or "most definitely." It is not the same as "sweet" or "hot dog" which express admiration. It is closer to "totally!"

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  • Thank you all. Would you please make some examples sentences in which (word up) is used as an emphatic yes? Thanks you Commented Sep 19, 2015 at 5:33
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Mark McCrindle & Emily Wolfinger, Word Up: A Lexicon and Guide to Communication in the 21st Century (2011) has this definition of word and word up:

word, word up Amen. "That's the truth." Used to endorse a statement or opinion, as in church they say "Amen".

McCrindle & Wolfinger is an Australian reference work, which indicates the international scope of usage of the term.

Geneva Smitherman, Black Talk (1994) has two related entries on this topic:

WORD! / WORD UP! A response of affirmation. Also Word to the Mother! Word Up is also the title of a music magazine published in New Jersey. See also WORD IS BORN!

WORD IS BORN An affirmative response to a statement or action. Also Word!, Word up!, Word to the Mother! A resurfacing of an old, familiar saying to the Black Oral Tradition, "Yo word is yo bond," which was popularized by the FIVE PERCENT NATION in its early years. Word is born! reaffirms strong belief in the power of the word, and thus the value of verbal commitment. One's word is the guarantee, the warranty, the bond, that whatever was promised will actually occur. Born is a result of the AAE pronunciation of "bond"; [internal cross reference omitted].

And Tony Thorne, The Dictionary of Contemporary Slang (1990) cites an example of "word up" from 1987 in an entry for word, and reports that word up itself goes back to the early 1980s:

word n, adj American a virtually meaningless interjection used in black street-speech and subsequently by teenage imitators to indicate agreement, affirmation, approval or solidarity. The usage enjoyed a vogue, particularly in New York, in the early 1980s. Word is used arbitrarily in conversation as an affectation; it recalls expressions such as 'the good word', 'I give you my word', and 'the word on the street', but in this punctuating role it is borrowed from rap music, where it is a substitute lyric when no rhyming word can be found. [Example:] 'Enjoying wide usage this winter is my favorite word "word," which formerly had the sense of "listen" (as in "Word up, man, you be illin'").' (Charles Maclean, Evening Standard, 22 January 1987).

word up vb American to speak out, tell the truth, say something meaningful. A street slang expression in the early 1980s, originating in black speech and used as an interjection like word.

And finally Barbara Kipfer & Robert Chapman, Dictionary of American Slang, fourth edition (2007) has these entries:

word interj 1 An exclamation of agreement and appreciation, used when someone has said something important or profound : "If it's really meaningful, 'Word, man, word' should be used" [Rosemary Breslin, "City Teen-Agers Talking Up a 'Say What? Storm," New York Times, (August 29, 1983)] {1980s + Black teenagers} 2 WORD UP

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word up interj An exhortation to listen, to pay attention : "Word up, fool. We be fresh tonight." [Carsten Stroud, Close Pursuit (1987)] {1980s+ Black, probably based on listen up}

As the preceding sources suggest, there is considerable variation in the assigned meanings of the (probably) closely related terms word and word up. At least in the OP's example—where Speaker A says "There's an open bar there," and Speaker B says "Word up!"—the exclamation "Word up!" appears to have a lot in common with the 1960s–1970s exclamation "Right on!" Both are, as it were, secular alternatives to "Amen!"

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