What Does 'Fam' Mean? A Simple Guide To The Slang Internet Term Everyone's Using

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woman holding up a peace sign

How many times have you heard someone utter the words "It's lit, fam" or "Nah fam," and just sort of rolled your eyes? If you're anything like me, then chances are the answer is roughly 812. Just rounding up, for honesty's sake.

Some folks like to claim that using the word fam and other vernacular that sprang into use around the same time is passed, that the word is dead on arrival, but that's not true at all. Many people use the word fam meaning family, which isn't what it actually means.

In fact, people have probably been saying "fam" for a lot longer than you might expect.

What is the definition of 'fam'? It refers to the people you're closest to.

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Fam is not only short for family. Its meaning is deeper than that.

You know how people are always saying that you have two families: the one you're born into and the one you pick? When you talk about your "fam," you're usually talking about that second family.

You use the word fam to refer to the people you trust above all others. 

If you're curious about how the word started to be used this way, you aren't alone. "Fam" began to emerge in the United States in the early 2000s, though it's been used throughout the UK for years and years before that.

What is lit fam?

Just like other slang terms used in life and on social media (I see you, "lit"), "fam" isn't used literally. You don't say something is "lit" because it's on fire, you say it's lit because it's cool. You don't call someone fam because they are necessarily related to you by blood, you use it to refer to the people in your life you're the closest to.

So a lit fam is the group of your coolest friends.

You can use fam on its own, but most of the time people use it in tandem with the phrase "it's lit," saying, "it's lit, fam." This can be used to describe a situation that's awesome to people you trust, or it can be used sarcastically to describe a situation that is dreadful in the extreme. 

How do you use fam in a sentence?

You can use the word fam in a sentence that is talking about your close friends, like when you are introducing someone new to your friends. For example, "Leah, meet the fam."

Because language changes with time, the definition of fam has continued to evolve. In fact, some people are starting to use "fam" as the exact opposite of its original meaning: as a moniker assigned to people who they don't respect or trust.

Ain't words weird? 

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Here are some examples of people using the word "fam" in the wild in memes and tweets to help give you a better sense of how to try out the word yourself. 

1. "I don't know what 'fam' means and at this point I'm afraid to ask."

2. "Barber: 'What do you want?'

Him: 'Ahh give me that Squilliam Fancyson.'

Barber: 'Say no more fam."

3. "Don't worry fam, I got you."

4. "My brother from another mother! So nice working with people you truly love."

5. "Had 20 mins spare so I decided to go see the fam."

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Rebecca Jane Stokes is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York with her cat, Batman. Her work focuses on relationships, pop culture and news. For more of her work, check out her Tumblr.