As ubiquitous as “dank” may be in cannabis culture, it's a term with many meanings. Dank can refer to the high quality of a particular product and a specific aroma of cannabis. Recent research has even revealed that dank is in fact a precise combination of terpenes present in particular cultivars of marijuana — like OG Kush and Diesel to name two strains. But what does the word dank mean exactly?

What is dank slang for?

As per the Oxford Dictionary, the definition of dank is "unpleasantly moist." It was first used in Middle English, and is thought to be of Scandinavian origin. Dank maintained its meaning well into the rise of underground cannabis culture when the term "dank weed" began to describe high-quality marijuana.

Dank first appeared on the website Urban Dictionary in 2003 as a slang word for "sticky, hairy, stinky, and highly potent marijuana." Dank has since evolved to be the popular descriptor for high-quality, desirable cannabis that most consumers know today. Consumers today ask for dank weed when they want a strain with an unmistakable, pungent, gassy aroma and a high-potency experience.

weed storage container
Consumers today ask for dank weed when they want a strain with an unmistakable, pungent, gassy aroma and a high-potency experience. 
Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

Is dank a good thing?

The quality of a particular strain of marijuana is always subject to the consumer's preference, yet many users share the sentiment that dank weed is indeed desirable. Recent research, too, has isolated the compounds that make up dank weed.

Cannabis is a unique plant in its ability to produce endless varieties of aromas and flavors with remarkable depth and complexity. The thousands of strains on the market today evolved not only in potency but in fragrance, many of which are difficult to describe. Dank is elusive, and yet most consumers can open a bag of weed and unmistakably identify dank by its overwhelming gassy pungency.

The researchers at ABSTRAX recently conducted a study to determine what terpenes, cannabinoids, and other chemicals make up a metric they call "the Gas Factor," the gassy, diesel-esque smell of dank weed that could be measured. The team used advanced 3D gas chromatography to study traditionally dank strains (such as OG Kush and Diesel) and uncover what properties actually make them dank. During the study, ABSTRAX identified more than 200 compounds that worked together to create the complex, nuanced aroma of the most dank marijuana on the market.

Further, ABSTRAX was able to directly correlate the presence, amount, and intermingling of certain compounds in a cannabis strain with desirable aromas in other words, what about the flower gives it its dank smell. The more of these specific compounds a strain has, the danker it is.

dank chart of gas strains
High gas strains had more of the compounds identified as those that make weed smell dank.
Photo by: Courtesy of ABSTRAX

The ABSTRAX study also found that dank cannabis loses its aroma over time. This holds true with other studies observing the lifespan and degradation of cannabinoids and terpenes after exposure to light and heat.

dank chart of gas strains
High-gas strains lose the compounds that make up their aroma over time.
Photo by: Courtesy of ABSTRAX

Is dank indica or sativa?

In short, dank is neither indica nor sativa. While consumers and dispensaries still find these blanket terms useful, the words "indica" and "sativa" really only describe what the plant looks like as it's growing — not the effects you can expect to feel.

Research increasingly suggests that the presence and combination of various compounds, including the hundreds discovered by ABSTRAX, contribute both to a strain's scent and the different psychoactive effects that cannabis provides, a phenomenon otherwise known as the entourage effect.

The terpenes in a cannabis strain work together with THC and other cannabinoids to create a unique cocktail of a cannabis experience with every bud. Consumers sense this instinctively; dispensary-goers are often drawn to a particular strain of weed by its aroma over any other attribute. The nose also knows whether a cultivar is of low quality. Brick weed often smells moldy and unpleasant, repelling the senses.

Let's return to the question of whether dank is indica or sativa. Dank most often refers to cannabis that exudes a gassy, pungent aroma that's signature of most OG strains. OG Kush is one of the cannabis' community's most beloved varieties. Most OGs share commonly reported effects, including sedating relaxation and a physical "stoned" feeling. These effects align with what many consumers associate with indica, so dank weed could indeed be considered as such.

OG kush nugs
Dank most often refers to cannabis that exudes a gassy, pungent aroma that's signature of most OG strains.
Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

However, the many cannabis hybrids on the market have produced dank strains with the energizing effects characteristic of a classic sativa as well. With so many cultivars on the market, there's a good chance any strain could contain the compounds that produce dank's gassy aroma.

When dank is used to describe high-quality bud in general, it's more challenging to determine what kind of psychoactive experience the strain in question will provide. But that shouldn't stop you from seeking out the dankest of the dank and discovering what works best for you.

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The information contained in this site is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical or legal advice. This page was last updated on September 8, 2020.