A Recap Of The New Dating Terms That 2021 Graced Us With

The world of dating is ever-changing, and if you’re still playing the field, it can be hard to keep up with new terms and trends. From breadcrumbing to orbiting and zombie-ing, 2021 has been full of new and confusing dating terms.

So what exactly do they mean? Here’s a list of some of the most popular dating terms of the year so you’ll be ready come 2022.

Dating And Dating Terminology

Man and woman walk outside and look at each other while holding hands.
Photo Credit: Jasmine Carter / Pexels
Photo Credit: Jasmine Carter / Pexels

Remember in grade school when you had a crush on someone you’d write them a love note in class, or you’d wait anxiously until they appeared as active on MSN Messenger? Well, those days of puppy love-type romance are long gone (just like our hopes and dreams) and they’ve been replaced with an avalanche of new terminology.

So what were 2021’s hottest (and most confusing) dating terms? Here’s a breakdown.

Soft Ghosting

Person seated outside against a gray sky and wearing a white sheet like a ghost
Photo Credit: Tandem X Visuals / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Tandem X Visuals / Unsplash

Most are familiar with ghosting, but “soft ghosting” is ghosting’s slightly friendlier cousin.

“Soft ghosting” is when a person feels guilt and doesn’t completely disappear, but communication slowly drops off. Rather than asking to hang out or actively messaging you, they opt for simpler actions such as liking your last message and not continuing a conversation.

Hardballing

A person holds several playing cards in their hands.
Photo Credit: Alessandro Bogliari / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Alessandro Bogliari / Unsplash

You’ve probably heard the phrase before that someone is playing “hardball,” and when it comes to dating, “hardballing” isn’t that far off.

Whether a person wants a casual fling or a serious relationship, this term refers to a person laying all of their cards on the table right from the get-go so they don’t waste their time with a relationship that’ll go nowhere.

Benching

A woman sits with her back to the camera on a white bench overlooking the ocean.
Photo Credit: Erik Mclean / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Erik Mclean / Unsplash

In sports, when a player isn’t actively competing, they’re often “benched.” In the dating world, “benching” isn’t too far off.

Benching occurs when someone isn’t romantically interested in you but instead keeps you off to the side and “benched” while still playing the field for other potential lovers. They string you along and pay you just enough attention so you don’t leave, but view you as a plan b option.

Wokefishing

A woman holds up a sign that says
Photo Credit: Liam Edwards / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Liam Edwards / Unsplash

You know what it means when a person is socially “woke” and you definitely know what “catfishing” is. So “wokefishing” is probably as 2021 a dating term as you can get.

“Wokefishing” was coined by Vice writer Serena Smith. It’s when a person pretends to be progressive and woke regarding various socio-political issues in order to impress others, but in all actuality, they don’t care about these issues.

Pocketing

A woman with her hand inside the pocket of her light blue pants.
Photo Credit: Frank Flores / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Frank Flores / Unsplash

Are you dating someone new and you still haven’t met your boyfriend’s close friends or parents? Well, then you may have been pocketed.

Pocketing occurs at the beginning of a relationship and rather than proudly boasting about your newfound love, your significant other instead keeps you hidden, like you’re a hair elastic forgotten about in your jeans pocket. Essentially, your relationship and other aspects of their lives are kept totally separate.

Breadcrumbing

A man looks down at his cell phone.
Photo Credit: Jonas Leupe / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Jonas Leupe / Unsplash

“Breadcrumbing” is a tactic used typically by ex-lovers who are bored or are in need of an ego boost. In order to keep them on your mind following a breakup, they leave small “breadcrumbs” in their wake so forgetting them and moving on isn’t so simple.

This can take the form of a random “Hey, how are you?” text. Block them and never look back.

Whelming

A woman in a red plaid shirt at a restaurant smiles seductively at the camera.
Photo Credit: petr sidorov / Unsplash
Photo Credit: petr sidorov / Unsplash

Coined by journalist Patia Braithwaite, “whelming” is when you match with a person on a dating app and they whine about being flooded with countless matches, DMs, or how they’re always approached by interested strangers when at the bar.

This is done to inflate their romantic appeal, give the illusion that they’re an in-demand commodity, and that they’re a one-of-a-kind catch (spoiler alert: they’re not).

Orbiting

Close-up of a woman with red nails scrolling through Instagram on her cell phone
Photo Credit: cottonbro / Pexels
Photo Credit: cottonbro / Pexels

If you hypothesized that “orbiting” had something to do with the planets, then go buy yourself a treat from Starbucks because you’re bang on.

“Orbiting” was first coined by The New York Times and refers to a person who follows you on social media and engages with your content, perhaps even flirtatiously, but they never take it any further. You’re the sun and they “orbit” around you from a digital distance.

Zombie-ing

Zombies appear in shadow on the other side of a door and try to break in.
Photo Credit: Nathan Wright / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Nathan Wright / Unsplash

Much like horror movie zombies, “zombie-ing” occurs when a previous romantic partner who’d ghosted you suddenly rises back from the dead and reenters your life.

The worst part is that when they suddenly pop back into your life without warning, they act as if nothing ever happened. Much like the protagonists of any zombie horror movie, you too should probably run.

Haunting

Message apps on a cell phone.
Photo Credit: Adem AY / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Adem AY / Unsplash

“Haunting” piggybacks off “ghosting” and “zombie-ing” (hey, I warned you it was confusing). Basically, it’s where a person falls off the radar but still follows you on social media and even likes your posts occasionally, but they can’t be bothered to respond to a DM.

Instead of “Casper the friendly ghost,” think more along the lines of “uninvited poltergeist.”

Roaching

A man and woman lie on the grass together; she wears a flower in her hair and has an unsure look on her face.
Photo Credit: Ron Lach / Pexels
Photo Credit: Ron Lach / Pexels

With a name like “roaching,” you can probably already guess that this term isn’t going to be positive.

This is when a person you’ve been casually dating and assumed to be exclusive with actually turns out to be seeing multiple people at the same time, and they kept it secret. When you go to confront them, they deflect and say they didn’t know you were exclusive.

Love Bombing

A man stands outside and holds a bouquet of pink roses.
Photo Credit: Clem Onojeghuo / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Clem Onojeghuo / Unsplash

With a name like “love bombing,” you might assume that this term is a green flag, but you’d be wrong. Love bombing occurs at the honeymoon phase of a relationship when a romantic partner showers you with gifts and affection, but then the honeymoon phase comes to an abrupt halt.

This kind of behavior is typically used by abusive and manipulative people and is definitely a red flag to be aware of.

And Finally, Cuffing

Woman faces away from camera and holds a man's hand on an autumn day.
Photo Credit: Nathan McBride / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Nathan McBride / Unsplash

Cuffing season is once again upon us! No, I’m not referring to handcuffs (unless you’re into that sort of thing), but instead “cuffing” refers to the time between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day when people are more likely to enter a romantic relationship.

Now get out there and explore the confusing world of modern dating! Or stay at home by yourself and eat a pizza while cuddling your cat—we won’t judge.