If you’re having a hard time keeping up with the pace of evolution in the crypto and blockchain spaces, don’t worry. You’re not alone. As the crypto markets exploded from a total valuation of about $1.49 billion in 2020 to over $3 trillion by November 2021, an entire new business ecosystem has emerged with its own rules, subcultures — and of course, terminology.
Alongside the crypto surge came the concept of “Web3,” a decentralized future version of the internet operating via blockchain, and the “metaverse,” a more immersive experience than our current online spaces, relying on virtual and augmented reality. Facebook even renamed itself “Meta” in October as part of a strategic embrace of the metaverse.
But “Web3” and the “metaverse” are really just the very beginning of the extensive list of new words that crypto enthusiasts have coined. Others include “DAOs,” or decentralized autonomous organizations, and “meatspace,” an entertaining reference to, you know, the ordinary flesh-and-blood reality we live in. Then there is the commonly-heard abbreviation “DeFi,” short for decentralized finance, a blockchain-based form of finance that does not rely on traditional intermediaries such as banks and brokerages.
It only gets more esoteric from there. We decided to gather a list of some of the commonly-used terms in crypto communities to help you better understand what people in these enclaves are talking about.
Be advised the crypto lingo is frequently sprinkled with offensive terms and obscenities — a lot of “f-bombs,” to be precise. Some terms also overlap with or reference popular slang used by retail traders who congregate on the WallStreetBets subreddit.
Here is what we came up with to get you up to speed.
Alpha leak: Used mainly by the DeFi crowd during DeFi Summer (described below) to refer to knowledge that would generate outsized returns. Co-opted from the quantitative finance crowd. Example: “I bought this dog money because a TikToker I follow had this crazy alpha leak.”
Ape in: The act of rashly opening a position or running a strategy on a DeFi token, other crypto coin or NFT collection. Example: “I aped in on Monday and sold everything for seven figures on Friday!”
Blockchain: A digitally distributed immutable public ledger that facilitates tracking assets and recording transactions, among other functions. Consists of digital records called “blocks.” Cryptocurrencies are generally enabled through blockchain technology.
Btfd: Short for “buy the fucking dip.” This refers to coin believers who fortify their belief by loading up on more coins when the price falls. Example: “The masculine urge to say “BTFD!” while simultaneously panic selling”
DAOs: An abbreviation of “decentralized autonomous organization.” These are internet-native organizations collectively owned by their members and lacking any central authority. They have treasuries consisting of crypto tokens and operate using smart contracts, which are sections of code that execute on particular instructions when certain criteria are met.
DeFi: Short for “decentralized finance.” Refers to finance that does not require the use of central intermediaries such as banks, brokerages or exchanges. Instead these transactions rely on smart contracts on blockchains.
DeFi Summer: A period of time spanning June-September 2020 when DeFi exploded. Volumes and total value locked surged, and DeFi protocols found the fabled product-market fit. Total value locked in DeFi protocols went from $10 billion at the start of 2020 to $21 billion by October. It stands at $110 billion today, according to DeFi Pulse.
Degen: Short for degenerate. Used to refer to DeFi diehards who engage in complicated strategies that pile on the risk. @DegenSpartan is a famous pseudonymous DeFi trader on Twitter. Example: “I went full degen when I decided to yield-farm on that new chain.”
Few: Originally rendered as “few understand.” Originating in DeFi Summer, it was meant as an opaque flex on social media after a trader had opened a position or run a strategy. It was immortalised in a token scandal when a group created the FEW token and were accused of planning to dump it on unsuspecting buyers.
Future of France: A deliberate misspelling of “future of finance” often used by the DeFi crowd. Example: “This new undercollateralized lending protocol is definitely the future of France.”
Gm: The initials simply mean “good morning.” Commonly used in greetings on Discord between members of a community. Some Discord servers, like FWB, have channels composed entirely of “gm” posts.
Have fun staying poor: Sometimes shortened to hfsp. Perhaps the uglier cousin of ngmi and wagmi. The Bitcoin maximalist turned reformer Udi Wertheimer first used it in the bull run of 2020 to refer to people who hadn’t bought and held bitcoin. Example: “Call your normie friends. Tell them to have fun staying poor.”
HODL: Basically, this just means "hold" but is intentionally misspelled to also abbreviate "hold on for dear life." A rallying cry among crypto enthusiasts as much as it is an investment strategy, it means hold on even when prices drop in hopes they will eventually recover. Given that crypto is highly volatile, it makes sense investors would encourage each other to "hodl."
IYKYK: An acronym for “if you know, you know,” IYKYK is a way to cultivate an “in-group” mentality where access to a certain understanding is reserved to a select few. The abbreviated form of the phrase gives an allure to its full form which itself entices people to learn more about what it is exactly that is to be “known” through FOMO. This term serves as a potent marketing tool for the Web3 movement.
Lfg: Usually stands as an exhortation to “let’s fucking goooo!” but also has an earlier usage among gamers as “looking for group”, referring to bands of players seeking to complete a mission or quest. Example: “Elon just tweeted about this new dog coin. Lfg!!”
Looks rare: A tautological statement used to praise an NFT. Since NFTs are by definition rare, being either unique or part of a scarce collection, restating the evidence further adds to the value people ascribe to this characteristic attribute of theirs. In a way, it serves to both pump demand and celebrate buyers in a congratulatory way as they “join the tribe” of NFT owners – whether generally or in a specific collection.
McDonalds: Similar to “ngmi” or “not gonna make it,” McDonalds is a dismissive comment used in crypto Twitter against those bearish on Web3 projects. It suggests that by choosing not to invest they will end up working in entry-level positions at the fast-food chain and remain the lowest in the corporate totem pole. Depending on how you look at it, it can also be a way to encourage people to keep their eyes on the prize.
Meatspace: The meatspace refers to physical reality rather than virtual worlds or the metaverse. It refers to modes of experience where meat rather than pixels compose human beings. You can often find the term in action on crypto Twitter. For example, Jaymes Rosenthal commented on a video of his toddler running in nature: “Lil homies first trail run in the meatspace.”
Metaverse: A version of the internet that includes persistent 3-D virtual environments, virtual and augmented reality. Much discussion of the metaverse also includes discussions of Web3, NFTs and crypto.
NFTs: Short for non-fungible tokens. These are like cousins of crypto coins, but instead of being one of many, they are designed to be one-of-a-kind. Artwork has been sold as NFTs sometimes for hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars. Artists themselves, however, are not necessarily sold on the movement. Many strongly oppose NFTs because of a lack of intellectual property protections in the market, the possibility that NFT sales could operate like a Ponzi scheme, as well as other issues.
Ngmi: This stands for “not going to make it”. Originally used in a self-deprecating way to indicate that the speaker needed to change a habit or behaviour, it became weaponised when used on others. Example: “He bought a bunch of index funds. Ngmi.”
Paper hands, diamond hands: Diamond-handed traders are ones who can go long on a coin indefinitely; they never sell, no matter how low a coin goes. Paper hands are traders who sell a coin the moment it drops a little bit. These terms are co-opted from traditional finance, where the markets speak of strong hands and weak hands. Example: “That trader has diamond hands, she didn’t even blink at that massive red candle.”
Pfp: This stands for “profile picture.” It refers to the user profile images on Twitter, Discord and other social media platforms. Over time, it mutated to refer to a genre of NFT art collections, usually comprising 10,000 pieces, each featuring an avatar generated by an algorithm. CryptoPunks are an example of a pfp collection.
Probably nothing: An ironic retort to a data point or proof point, usually used in a quote-tweet.The poster means that the data point is a big deal. Also the name of a podcast by venture capitalists Alexis Ohanian and Tiffany Zhong.
Right click and save: A term co-opted from NFT naysayers who believe the tokens are just worthless digital images. NFT believers use this derisively to refer to doubters. Also referred to in an artwork called The NFT Bay by Geoffrey Huntley where images used by various NFT collections can be downloaded and saved for free.
Rugged: Short for “rug pulled”, which means to have been the victim of a crypto scam. Example: “I should have known I would be rugged when the core dev stopped responding on Telegram.”
Smart contracts: Batches of code stored on blockchain that automatically run when predetermined conditions are met. They are typically used to automate execution of an agreement. They allow for DAOs, for instance, to function as decentralized organizations.
Ser, fren Cutesy misspellings of “sir” and “friend.” Origins unclear. Used in casual conversation.
This is the way: This phrase is used by crypto-native communities to encourage civil behavior online and a sense of belonging even with pseudonymous identities. It is used to express approval and socially reward certain practices (and reject their opposites by the same token). For example, when ericosiu.eth tweeted: “1. Work hard. 2 Win 3. Make friends with good people that work hard 4. Win together,” Ohanian replied: “This is the way.”
Wagbi: This means “we are going to buy it.” A mutation of similar “wagmi” and “ngmi” terms, adapted for DAOs that sprung up to acquire a specific item. It was a rallying cry for ConstitutionDAO and continues to be used by others, such as Krause House. Example: “I am going to stay up just to watch the auction live wagbi.”
Wagmi Stands for “we’re all gonna make it,” and is a common refrain among crypto traders, NFT-folk and DAOists alike. It’s an optimistic slogan that’s used either in gratitude or for moral support. Example: “The floor price went to 5 ETH overnight. wagmi!”
Web3: A next-generation version of the internet consisting of decentralized apps running on blockchain. Differs from the current iteration, referred to as Web2, which is dominated by companies that provide services in exchange for accessing your personal data. Proponents call it “the ownership economy” because participants would have ownership over their data.
Whale: Individuals or entities that hold enough of a cryptocurrency that they can manipulate prices.