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April 21, 2005

Slang of the Week: gangsta (adjective)

The Notorious B.I.G. was a gangsta gangsta rapper.

Celebrity quote:
“I thought the article was gangsta! Thirteen pages on a black woman in Vanity Fair? That's never been done before. It was dope.”
- Kimora Lee Simmons, fashion designer and wife of hip hop mogul Russell Simmons

This word comes from the Standard English “gangster,” but it is no longer just about gangsters or gangsta rap. This kind of language shift is not unusual. The word awesome (great) was once used only to describe subjects as powerful and inspiring as God and the Grand Canyon, but by the 1980s, it was more commonly used by Valley Girls to talk about trips to the shopping mall.

What’s interesting about Simmon’s quote is that both of the positive adjectives she uses can be slang for marijuana. Dope (great) is also a word that has changed meanings over the years. Though the noun is now most often associated with marijuana, it has been used for all kinds of drugs, and in the early twentieth century was even used for alcohol and Coca Cola (back when it still contained cocaine). Gangsta is also marijuana slang, but that term was most popular before Snoop Dogg and 50 Cent were born.

What’s new at Slang City?
Speaking of dope, how much do you know about marijuana slang? Try our new POT or NOT Quiz, a randomized test with hundreds of words and test your skills or just learn some new vocabulary. It’s different every time, so you can take it again and again!