The cannabis plant has been used for centuries for medicinal, religious, and recreational purposes. It's also been outlawed, demonized, and railed against in societies across the globe. The nature of being so many things to so many people inherently leads to a lot of names. Add to that the occasional need to be covert and the infinite creativity of weed lovers and you get even more terms.
If you're curious about some of the more popular slang terms for cannabis, specifically the smokable cannabis flower, and how they came to be, you've come to the right place.
Why so many slang names for cannabis?
As the slang researcher Jonathan Green has been quoted saying, there are a variety of reasons for slang—drug-related or otherwise. Slang terms for weed typically fall into five main categories: products of criminalization, non-English language, weed culture, quality, and quantity.
Many common slang terms serve to hide what you're talking about from others, usually authority figures. As such, slang terms tend to morph and change over time as the “out” group catches on to what the “in” group is talking about—in this case, the cannabis plant. When something is criminalized but still in popular use, the names for it naturally go underground. Some slang names that began as ways to hide from law enforcement include:
- Grass is an old-school term from the counterculture in the '60s and '70s used to keep your old man from harshing your mellow.
- Marijuana is a common slang term most likely coined during the United States' smear campaign to outlaw the plant by associating it with Mexican immigrants.
- Mary Jane is one of the earliest slang terms that probably came from a play on the word marijuana. Variations include MJ, Aunt Mary, Maria, and Marie Jeanne (French).
- Skunk is a slang term coined in the US. It's just a strain or type of cannabis in the US, but in the UK, it's being used to stir up fear about a super-strong weed that induces psychosis.
- Boom, Dope, Hash, Indo, Mota, Reefer, and Yerba all come from the US Drug Enforcement Agency's latest list of street names for marijuana.
There are many reasons for the different slang terms for marijuana around the world. One is simply language. Whether it's a current translation or the fact that weed has migrated from country to country, what's weed in the US may be ganja in India and other Hindi-speaking areas.
Other international examples of weed slang include:
- Dagga is a South African word for cannabis that's also spelled daggha, dacha, dacka, dachka, and tagga.
- Da Kine is Hawaiian surfer slang for pot, and it may also be where kind, or excellent, bud comes from.
- Erba means weed in Italy.
- Erva means weed in Brazil, though Brazilians also use the term machohna.
- Hanf is the German word for hemp but it's also a synonym for cannabis.
- Herb is the word used in Jamaica and Rastafarian culture to denote the fact that the cannabis plant is a natural product.
- La beuh is French slang for weed.
- Mota is the Spanish word for weed, though it may also mean a small quantity of weed.
- Pot may be from the Mexican Spanish word potiguaya, which is a portmanteau for potación de guaya, which is wine that has buds steeped in it.
- Sinsemilla, or sin semilla, is the literal Spanish phrase for without seed. This term is also written sensimilla, sensimilia, and sensi.
- Travka means weed in Russian.
- Wiet is the Dutch word for weed.
- Yerba is slang for weed in Spanish and not to be confused with the herbal tea yerba mate.
Some of these come from pop culture and others are just stoners having fun:
- Bud is a common slang term for weed flowers in the US.
- Nug, like bud, is another common term for cannabis flower.
- Sticky icky is weed slang for bud but it also refers to the fact that trichome-dense nugs can be sticky when handled.
- Buddha is commonly used in reference to weed, perhaps to draw parallels between the Buddha's enlightened state of mind and stoners' relaxed state of being.
- Green relates to the color of a healthy cannabis plant and fresh cannabis flower.
- Muggle was a term used for weed and joints long before it came to mean non-magical fictional characters.
- Wacky tabacky is an old-school term for weed that managed to make its way into the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
At least some of the slang terms for cannabis come from consumers developing short-hand language to refer to weed's quality. In the market's not-so-distant past, quality may have been conflated with THC levels but today's cannasseur knows there's more to quality bud than just a THC percentage.
High-quality weed. Some terms for high-quality weed include top-shelf, loud, chronic, kind, headies, fire, or piff. Dank is also a popular term for top-notch cannabis that has a rich smell of damp earth.
Average weed. Mid or mids is one of few terms for weed that's not quite top of the line but it's not awful either. It's average, the C-student of bud. Beaster is another slang term in this quality category.
Bad weed. Low-quality weed goes by a lot of names. Ditch weed, regs, reggie, schwag, dirt weed, and brick weed all refer to dry, crumbly, brown, harsh-smelling, unappealing weed you shouldn't find in any licensed dispensary.
Similar to the phrases used for quality, some weed terms are commonly used as short-hand language for quantities of weed.
- Dime, or dime bag, is shorthand for ten dollars worth of weed, which is typically an amount no larger than a gram.
- Dub is shorthand for two grams of weed.
- Eighth is the most common of quantity-related weed slang and means an eighth of an ounce of weed, or 3.5 grams.
- Slice also refers to an eighth of weed, or 3.5 grams.
- Quarter is seven grams, or a quarter of an ounce.
- Zip is the shorthand term for one ounce of weed, or roughly the amount of weed that can fit in a Ziploc bag.
The very nature of slang means the popular phrases and names for weed are constantly changing. For dank weed at ditch weed prices, check out deals in your area.