Ratchet, Finna, and YOLO: An Introduction to Linguistics through Hip Hop Slang

In this activity, students will be introduced to linguistics by examining the definitions and origins of various hip hop slang. They will discuss how and why these words originated to define concepts not previously conveyed in the English language. Students should analyze the aspects of hip hop culture that made these words necessary. This analysis will help them understand that language is a direct result of culture. They will then use this understanding to study a non-English word and culture of their choice. The word they choose should not be directly translatable in English. Through a brief in-class presentation, students will define their chosen word, discuss its origin (or etymology), and analyze the aspects of its cultural context that required it to exist.


Some media may contain mature content. Discretion is advised when viewing with students.

Lesson Plan

Introduce your students to the term "etymology." Etymology is the study of the history and origin of words and how their meanings have changed over time. Then, provide students with examples of hip hop slang below and conduct a brief discussion about the specific aspects, definitions, and origins of each. Use the talking points below to guide the discussion (simply click on the hip hop slang to visit urbandictionary.com and find the word's definition).

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Lesson tags: Eleventh, English, Music, Ninth, Pop Culture, Social Studies, Tenth

Cassie Brown

Cassie Brown Cassie Brown is an award-winning playwright and performer as well as an experienced educator. Cassie currently teaches enrichment classes in magic, model airplane building, and outdoor adventure skills. She has a degree in Early Childhood Development in addition to a Bachelor's in Film Studies with a minor in Education. Cassie honed her understanding of student-centered education while at Sesame Street, where she spent years learning the value of combining entertainment with education.