The Meaning of AAVE: What It Is and How To Use It

How can the term AAVE be used when discussing cultural appropriation and linguistics? This article is your complete guide to the meaning of AAVE.

Your writing, at its best

Compose bold, clear, mistake-free, writing with Grammarly's AI-powered writing assistant

You may have heard about AAVE in the news or on social media. While this is a vernacular that has birthed many popular slang terms, AAVE is commonly misused and appropriated in American culture. Learn more about AAVE today so that you can avoid using it inappropriately. 

What Does AAVE Stand For?

According to Britannica, the term AAVE stands for African American Vernacular English. This can also be known as ebonics and was formerly called Black English Vernacular (BEV). This is a specific dialect of English used by some African Americans with roots in standard English, Creole languages, West African languages, and other African American English dialects.

This dialect has specific grammatical features and vocabulary. It is predominant in places like the American South and Northeast. AAVE is considered one of the nonstandard varieties of English and is often associated with urban communities and poverty.

While the origins of AAVE come from pre-Civil War plantations, enslaved African people, and servants, these terms have quickly become a part of popular culture thanks to internet social media sites like Twitter. Gen Z English speakers often use AAVE and commit cultural appropriation without realizing it.

What Is the Origin of AAVE?

To understand the present context of a term like African American Vernacular English, it is important to understand its origins and history. Only by knowing the true history of something like African American Vernacular English can non-Black people understand why its usage could be inappropriate. 

According to the Oxford Handbooks, African American Vernacular English derives from settler dialects in the American south during the 17th century and 18th century. These came about during the first hundred years of America’s British colonization. African American Vernacular English’s origins were largely established in the Chesapeake Bay region in Virginia and Maryland. It also rose to prominence in Georgia and the Carolinas.

African American Vernacular English formed in the American South because it was useful for Black people who took on the same dialects as the white settlers and indentured servants. African American Vernacular English continued to evolve as time passed, mixing with numerous different dialects along the way, such as the Scotch-Irish eighteenth-century migrant dialect.

The models of African American Vernacular English that the people in the Chesapeake Bay region, the Carolinas, and Georgia spoke acted as a model for people who were arriving from West Africa and the Caribbean to the United States. These people often spoke creole, a native West African language, or some combination of their native language and English. African American Vernacular English is also influenced by British English dialects.

Even though African American Vernacular English began in the Chesapeake Bay region, they spread throughout the American South due to the region’s coastal nature. With the advent of the internet, it then was adopted all over the world. 

What Are AAVE Words?

There are tons of words and grammatical structures that are considered AAVE. Many of the below terms from The Tab are terms that you might think of as internet slang terms, but these actually come from African American Vernacular English. If you are white or a non-Black POC, you should steer clear of these terms, as their use can be considered cultural appropriation.

  • We been knew
  • Go off
  • Ion
  • Fam
  • Miss girl
  • Sis
  • Pressed
  • Aggy
  • Woke
  • Finna
  • Lit
  • Snatched (i.e., snatched my wig)
  • Shook
  • Cap and no cap
  • Extra (i.e., he’s so extra)
  • Read (i.e., read for filth)
  • tho/dow
  • Deadass
  • Headass
  • The habitual be (i.e., he be like…)
  • Been (i.e., we been knew)
  • Tea (i.e., spill the tea)
  • Hella
  • Simp
  • Sus
  • Boo
  • Bae
  • Period
  • Purr
  • As fuck
  • Chile 
  • Double negation
  • On fleek
  • Shade 

What Are Other Meanings of AAVE? 

According to The Free Dictionary, the acronym AAVE has one other potential meaning, though it is rarely used. Most often, sentences containing the term AAVE will use it to refer to African American Vernacular English. 

However, if the term African American Vernacular English doesn’t make sense in context, you can ask them if they are using AAVE to mean the below alternate definition:

  • All About Visiting Earth (teen camp and tour programs)

What Are Synonyms of AAVE?

If you are looking for a term that refers to a specific dialect or vernacular that is not AAVE, you can try using one of these synonyms of vernacular from Power Thesaurus

There are many different types of vernacular and jargon that are not specifically considered AAVE, so looking at this list of synonyms can be very useful! Try using one of these synonyms for the word vernacular soon:

  • argot
  • cant
  • colloquial
  • colloquial language
  • colloquial speech
  • colloquialism
  • common
  • common parlance
  • conversational
  • conversational language
  • creole
  • demotic
  • dialect
  • dialectal
  • everyday
  • everyday language
  • idiom
  • idiomatic
  • indigenous
  • informal
  • jargon
  • language
  • langue
  • lexicon
  • lingo
  • lingua franca
  • local
  • local speech
  • mother tongue
  • native
  • native speech
  • native tongue
  • natural
  • neologism
  • nonliterary
  • ordinary
  • parlance
  • patois
  • patter
  • phraseology
  • pidgin
  • popular
  • provincialism
  • regional
  • regional language
  • slang
  • speech
  • spoken language
  • terminology
  • tongue
  • vocabulary
  • vulgar
  • vulgarism


Overall, AAVE stands for African American Vernacular English. This dialect is a subset of grammar and vocabulary that is often used by African Americans in the United States. While many of the words in AAVE have become popular internet slang terms, they are still considered culturally appropriative when used by non-Black people. 


  1. Vernacular synonyms – 509 Words and Phrases for Vernacular | Power Thesaurus 
  2. AAVE – What does AAVE stand for? | The Free Dictionary 
  3. Ebonics | dialect | Britannica 
  4. What is AAVE, and which words are non-black people being asked to avoid? | The Tab 
  5. Origins of African American Vernacular English: Beginnings | Oxford Handbooks