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I often hear teenagers saying things like "I am so fly".

This term is confusing to me.

Does it mean funny? Or dumb? I do'nt know.

  • 3
    It is slang, and means just about the same thing as 'cool' or 'awesome'. – Sander Jun 8 '15 at 21:48
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    When in doubt: The vast majority of slang words mean either "good" (in the sense of desirable, high quality, etc) or "bad" (the opposite). See which makes sense in context: are they praising the thing or ridiculing it? – Jay Jun 8 '15 at 22:09
  • You should change the accepted answer. It's totally misleading and the vote totals reflect that. – Noumenon Aug 24 at 22:40
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    @Noumenon Good suggestion. Done. – Trevor Clarke Sep 5 at 18:22
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When you come across slang terms whose definition are hard to find, the Urban Dictionary can be a friend. (Just beware the amount of obscenity in it).

fly

cool, in style

He was drivin some fly ass car

I'm so fly

The rapper way of saying that you are way cool

I'm so fly chicks wanna bang me when I drive by

Since definitions in the Urban Dictionary can be written by anyone (and sometimes I think 14-year-old boys write a lot of them), it's safer and more reliable to stick to professional dictionaries for anything other than hard-to-find definitions of slang. I mean, use TUD as a last resort, probably.

  • I'm wondering how a word as fly can become an adjective with the meanings indicated above. There isn't any semantic connection between the verb to fly or the noun fly to the meanings of the adjective. It is riddle language of youngsters. A thousand expressions of this riddle language and we wouldn't understand each other. – rogermue Jun 9 '15 at 3:20
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This is a slang term that I've heard in the late 80's/early 90's and it means "good looking" or "really good." I believe it was prevalent throughout that time period among the young in the U.S. at least, but is not so much anymore.

Anytime I hear this I think late 80's/early 90's American rap/hip-hop music. This could vary widely by region and not sure if this applies outside the U.S.

7

In US hip hop slang, both "competent / skilled" and "sexy".

The "Fly Girls" were the dancers on "In Living Color" in the early 90's, but the term is much older.

Since the word is used with this meaning as part of the title of the 1971 film "Super Fly", it must come from the late 1960's at the latest, and could easily predate that.

  • I upvoted this because I’ve postulated for some time that today’s youth use fly as a shortened version of superfly. That said, I think fly meaning “fashionable” goes way back. Etymonline says that modern usage is a possible “revival or reinvention.” – J.R. Jun 24 '17 at 21:29
1

(3) fly
adjective

(slang)
(mainly British) knowing and sharp; smart
(mainly Scottish) furtive or sneaky

C19: of uncertain origin

[ Collins English Dictionary Online - "fly" ]


(3) fly

adj.
1. Chiefly British Mentally alert; sharp.
2. Slang Fashionable; stylish.

[ AmHDotEL - "fly" ]


fly (adj.) slang, "clever, alert, wide awake," by 1811, perhaps from fly (n.) on the notion of the insect being hard to catch. Other theories, however, trace it to fledge or flash. Slang use in 1990s might be a revival or a reinvention.

[ Online Etymology Dictionary - "fly" ]

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    No. At least, not to British English speakers under the age of 40. (Probably under 60, but I don't know...). See LawrenceC's answer for how middle-aged and younger BrE speakers use the term: the same as Americans of the same age. – AndyT Jun 23 '17 at 16:28
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    @JordanN - If you’re concerned that this answer doesn’t tell the whole story, I think it would be better for you to edit this rather than to ask the user to pick a different answer. – J.R. Jun 24 '17 at 21:23
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    @Jordan - Fair enough, and good effort with the research. It's just unfortunate that the dictionary wasn't quite up to date! – AndyT Jun 24 '17 at 21:47
  • @J.R. Thank you, apologies for the misstep, this is just a misunderstanding and I've removed my comment to OP. I'm not a native speaker and considering how the votes were cast and AndyT's comment, I thought I was way off as in 60 years late. My answer is not a statement on current use. I know those are just dictionary entries and they won't supplant usage in any way, shape or form. I think it's interesting to note a learner such as myself would look in those dictionaries including AmHDotEL and wouldn't find the current meaning. The language packs a wallop, as I like to say. Thanks all! – user16335 Jun 24 '17 at 21:58
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    @JordanNorthwitshanding - You shouldn't feel "intimidated" by downvotes. People might upvote one answer and downvote another just because they like one answer better than another. It's not intended to be a personal atttack, and you shouldn't lose sleep over it. If you take it personally to the point of being "fed up," you're probably thinking about it too much. This answer provides a bit of history that isn't part of the other answers, so I think it's good to have here, even if other answers are getting more upvotes than this one. – J.R. Jun 28 '17 at 18:34

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