Since June 2015, the use of the word lit has exploded on Twitter. Here are some recent examples.

Nena Marie:

My Year is starting off lit af👌🏼 ...but is gonna be TD by Monday morning


Jason got lit last night. Was the show for at least half the snapchat stories this morning.

Summer Monae':

When you and bae both lit and give each other that look

The @lovihatibot Twitterbot routinely finds it in searches for "I love the word [X]" and "I hate the word [X]", in fact, it's the third most hated) and eighth most loved over 30 days, and fourth most hated and 10th most loved in all of 2015. That's a lot of love and hate for a little word, it can't be random babble to cause such a reaction.

Similarly, it regularly shows up in @favibot's searches for "[X] is my new favorite word" and came in as third favorite for all 2015.

What does lit mean here?

Where does it come from and when was it first used?

Was there a single person or event which popularised it, and when was it? Or if it's an older word, what accounts for its recent popularity?

  • Lit has several different meanings, in different contexts. It can mean "intoxicated" (especially with weed, though plain old beer will work too). It can mean "excited" (possibly "sexually excited" in one of the above examples). And while I've never heard it used in such a sense, I suspect it can mean "angry" as well. And likely several others. And of course there are the dictionary meanings: "set afire" ("Frank lit the candle") or "alighted" ("the bird lit on the wire").
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 1, 2016 at 19:52
  • (As to origin, most of the slang uses would be based on the "set afire" sense of the word.)
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 1, 2016 at 19:54
  • And then there's "lit" as short for "literature". "Chick lit" is literature for women, eg.
    – Hot Licks
    Dec 4, 2017 at 21:29

4 Answers 4


According to OED, lit (slang. Drunk Freq. const. up.) is from 1914:

Lit up, intoxicated.

‘High Jinks, Jr.’ Choice Slang 14

From 1933, it refers to someone under the influence of a drug:

When one has contracted the habit or is under the immediate influence of the drug, he is all lit up.

American speech (American Dialect Society)

In 1971, it also appears in Eugene E. Landy's The underground dictionary:

Lit up,..under the influence of a narcotic.

For the recent usage of lit meaning exciting, excellent, awesome; Merriam Webster has added an article since. It is mentioned that the new meaning comes from rap (which I've mentioned one year ago in the comment section also). Here is a relevant excerpt:

Rap has also given us a new meaning of lit. In the last ten or so years, lit has transitioned from being applied to the act of intoxicating ("gonna get lit") to the environment of those who are lit ("party's lit"). The wildness of such parties has led to lit gaining the meaning “exciting,” as well as a broader meaning along the lines of “excellent” (“Leslie Jones's commentary on the Olympics was lit"). We have evidence of the “exciting” and “excellent” meanings way back to 2004, and earlier use is likely—slang is often spoken long before it’s written down. This extended meaning of lit is a favorite on social media like Twitter.

There is also a discussion in a Sports, Hip Hop & Piff forum where they are trying to find the origin of the phrase "It's lit": http://www.thecoli.com/threads/the-term-its-lit-who-started-that.358480/page-2

  • 1
    J.E. Lighter, Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang (1997) cites this instance of lit up from William J. Kountz, Jr., Billy Baxter' Letters (1899), page 42: "Every time the general gets lit up, he places his arm around your shoulder." Lighter cites six other instances of the slang term from before 1914, as well.
    – Sven Yargs
    Jan 1, 2016 at 23:32
  • @SvenYargs: Are you sure it means "drunk" there? Can it be a figurative usage? Etymonline gives 1914 also. But OED and Etymonline sometimes don't give the earliest date.
    – ermanen
    Jan 1, 2016 at 23:50
  • I think it's very likely to mean "tipsy" in the context of the story. The next instance that Lighter cites—from George Ade, The Girl Proposition: A Bunch of He and She Fables (1902), page 62—is unmistakable: "He came back a trifle Squiffy. He was all Lit Up." In this case, the source of the lighting up was "stow[ing] away five Santiago Sours" that "leave you wrecked on the Beach."
    – Sven Yargs
    Jan 2, 2016 at 0:00
  • 1
    @ermanen Thanks! Is this the same lit as seen recently? What accounts for its recent and sudden popularity 45 years after your latest quotation?
    – Hugo
    Jan 2, 2016 at 6:46
  • @Hugo: Maybe because of a rap song? :)
    – ermanen
    Jan 2, 2016 at 23:01

The word means different things in accordance to the context in which it was applied.


  1. My Year is starting off lit af👌🏼 ...but is gonna be TD by Monday morning
    Meaning: my year, 2016, is starting off really well, but it will be even better by Monday Morning. Lit in this context means great, AF means as fuck. *Also, TD means Touch Down, which implies success or a great achievement.

  2. Jason got lit last night. Was the show for at least half the snapchat stories this morning. Meaning: Jason either got drunk, high, etc or had just had a really fun night, or a combination of all three.

  3. When you and bae both lit and give each other that look
    Meaning: You and your significant other (fling, gf, bg, etc) got drunk, high, last night, and looked at each other either playfully sexually etc... more description needed for a full answer

Origin: late 80's early 90's, use of word faded out in black culture but came back around 2011

Source: A young intelligent Black male.

  • I would be inclined to interpret #3 as suggesting that the two people "lit" upon each other, as birds on a wire, or as someone might "light" upon an idea.
    – Hot Licks
    Sep 10, 2016 at 18:00

Checking with the slang usage of the term "lit", it appears that it used to mean inebriated and is now used with a stronger meaning close to intoxicated, stoned or any state of mind you may find yourself in after having taken one or more "intoxicating agents". In the short lines reported in your question it may have been used in a figurative sense:


  • The state of being so intoxicated (regardless of the intoxicating agent) that all the person can do is smile, so that they look lit up like a light. He's so lit he can't even talk. Pee.


To get lit:

  • to be lit must mean to be high. To be fair, that is certainly the most used definition of the word; in fact, the most popular Urban Dictionary definition of "lit" is, "The state of being so intoxicated (regardless of the intoxicating agent) that all the person can do is smile, so that they look lit up like a light." Whether you've actually recently lit a joint or are just super turnt on tequila shots, getting and being lit via intoxicant is certainly a common use of the word.


From moblile.twitter.com:,

  • lit is the new lit. we used to get lit in the 80's. back then it just meant "inebriated"

The modern slang LIT that means 'cool'* is just another variation of the semi-old internet slang LEET that means the same thing.


  • 1
    Got a reference for that?
    – Hugo
    Jul 26, 2021 at 8:59
  • No it’s not. Leet or L33t originally mean “elite” as in - “I am l33t hacker give me warez dood.” I wasn’t aware of that ever meaning “cool” and it sure never meant “exciting” or “inebriated”. Jul 26, 2021 at 14:43
  • 2
    Your reference does not substantiate your claims. Neither the modern or early 20th c use of 'lit' matches 'cool' or 'leet'.
    – Mitch
    Jul 26, 2021 at 15:37

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.