How and why did the word tight come to be appropriated in this sense, for example as in, "That car is tight, cuh!" ? I mean, one easily extrapolates from the "normal" definition to understand why slang would appropriate tight to mean "close" — as in "Nah, we cool cuz we tight like that" — but this other sense is significantly opaque to me.

  • Tight jeans are cool?
    – Thursagen
    Jul 5, 2011 at 1:02
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    Possibly musically? - if someone is playing tight then their performance is extremely accurate and 'together'
    – user9682
    Jul 5, 2011 at 1:14
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    Interesting.... this was posed to me today and something I never considered. It was suggested to me from a friend that it was sexual.... and is in fact why you find me here. I'd never heard that. I'm not sure there is always a basis of reasoning with slang. It's just something someone or group said that some thought was cool and it took off. Id like to stick with that, because I had never thought of it like that before... but thanks for confirming :(
    – user13330
    Sep 24, 2011 at 5:50

3 Answers 3


From thefreedictionary.com:

15 Marked by full control over elements or subordinates; firm: tight management; a tight orchestral performance.

In music it usually means all members of an ensemble are playing together with rhythmic and harmonic precision. I think it's not much of a stretch to work from that meaning to the sense of something being remarkable or "slick".

  • There's also to run a tight ship, which superficially alludes to the strict control exercised by the captain, but in practice is often used to call attention to how well organised and functional everything is as a result. Jul 5, 2011 at 2:03

Based on cultural proximity, I'm relatively certain that the usage in question came from music. However, I'm going to go ahead and suggest that some implied sexuality has brought the term down the ranks.

  • 1
    Doesn't have to be sexual. Consider a tight body—in the sense of fitness rather than need of massage.
    – Jon Purdy
    Jul 5, 2011 at 4:04
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    Definitely was sexual in my neighborhood.
    – zenbike
    Jul 5, 2011 at 19:06

Tight implies being well-designed. If something is designed to physically be tight, everything is held together firmly. Nothing sloppy. So the use of it to describe cool/great/slick is in reference to it being a good design, be it music, cars, a purse, or even relationships (it's good that those two people are together--they fit together well--they "tight").

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