Photo: Ekaterina Pokrovsky/Shutterstock

A Mini Guide to SoCal Vs NorCal Slang

by Julia Kitlinski-Hong Mar 1, 2017

NorCal slang


This word originated in the Bay Area and is usually heard more often up north than down south. It is used when you want to intensify something, for example “that party was hella boring last night.”

Synonyms: very, a lot

The City

People in the Bay Area refer to San Francisco as “the city.” For example, you hear locals say, “I was born in the city, but moved to the East Bay recently.” There is never any confusion to which city is “the city,” when you are in the Bay Area.

Synonyms: San Francisco, SF


This term is used around the state, but it is more common up north. In areas like San Francisco, Berkeley and Humboldt County, April 20th is a huge local holiday. In places like Santa Cruz, there is an entire field dedicated to smoking on this day.

Synonyms: National Pot Day


This word is mostly heard in northern California, when people are using it to describe something that is sub-par. “My car is so janky that I’m scared it’ll brake down on the Bay Bridge.”

Synonyms: broken


This world is commonly used statewide in California, but it is used with more frequency up north. Think of it as the equivalent of the surfer term of endearment: dude. “Man, I wish I would go with you to Tahoe next weekend, but I have to work.”

Synonyms: guy, dude


Originally a style of up-tempo rap music that originated in the Bay Area, this term also means crazy. For example, “This party is going to get hyphy.”
Synonyms: crazy, high energy


This term is used when something is undesirable or unwanted. For example, “those guys are dusty, get them outta here.”

Synonyms: undesirable, unwanted


Another way to say something is sketchy or gives you a bad gut feeling. An example is, “that area of town is hella cutty, I wouldn’t recommend going there.”

Synonyms: not good, sketchy

SoCal and NorCal

These regional labels are used mostly in the northern part of California, mostly as a pride thing. You will rarely hear people in southern California refer to themselves as SoCal or their neighbors up north as NorCal.

Synonyms: Southern California and Northern California

SoCal slang


This word is associated with southern California surf culture and is used as a term of endearment for guys to refer to one another. For example, “Bro, there were some killer waves this morning.”

Synonyms: man, guy


Another SoCal expression that is often associated with surfers, and is used to express how cool something is. “The waves were so gnarly today, bro.”

Synonyms: epic, amazing


This word is more commonly heard in the sentences of southern Californians than their northern counterparts. It is not only reserved for ditzy girls from The Valley, but is like widely used by those who grew up in SoCal.

Synonyms: um

The 101

People from SoCal and NorCal may have more in common than they would care to admit, but one surefire way to tell the difference between these two groups is the way they refer to a freeway. For people from SoCal, freeways always have “the” in front of them as oppose to NorCal folk who just simply refer to a freeway as “101 or 5.”


Yet another surfer slang, this word is meant to refer to both guys and girls. “Dude, the weather was perfect yesterday to catch some gnarly waves.”

Synonyms: bro


Straight off of the beaches of LA, this word was first heard when surfers wanted to express their excitement toward something that was uniquely their own. Instead of saying, “I’m so excited to go to the beach tomorrow,” they say: “I’m stoked to hit the waves.”

Synonyms: excited, thrilled


People in Southern California like to abbreviate neighborhoods and regions, for example Orange County becomes the OC, and in San Diego, Pacific Beach and Ocean Beach become PB and OB.

Synonyms: Orange County, Pacific Beach, and Ocean Beach

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