What is ‘yapping’? An old-school term has been reclaimed by chatty social media users.

Harry Luke
Harry Luke
5 Min Read

If you’ve seen someone accused of “yapping” and wondered what it means, the answer isn’t complicated. To “yap” still means to talk excessively, but the old-school term has found new relevance on social media.

“In the last 3 weeks everyone started saying ‘yap’ and i’m supposed to pretend that’s normal and not the likely result of some kind of sinister social control,” one X user wrote. Though social media can sometimes make it feel as if a trend or meme has come out of nowhere, the word “yap” has existed for a long time.

Where did ‘yapping’ come from?

“Yap” was originally a noun used to describe a small dog in the 1600s, according to the Oxford English DictionarySylvia Sierra, a linguistics professor at Syracuse University, told Yahoo News that its meaning changed over time through a process called semantic drift. “Yap” became a verb used to describe the shrill, high-pitched sound of a dog’s bark, and by the 1800s, it described human chattering. Rappers like Jay-Z and Nas used the word in songs in the 1990s, and now it’s popular on TikTok.

“I think what might be happening is that since TikTok is a platform that largely consists of people talking, ‘yapping’ is a convenient already existing verb that can easily be applied to linguistic behavior on this platform,” Sierra said. “There are also a lot of TikToks trying to define what ‘yapping’ is, so in other words, people are now yapping about yapping.”

What does yapping mean now?

The term took off online in mid-2023 as a way to poke fun at someone who talks a lot and sometimes to demean their opinions, according to Know Your Meme. For example, social media users might comment “What is bro yapping about?” on a chatty or nonsensical video. On a TikTok video in which a user jokingly attempted “yapping for three hours,” users commented, “my mom been yapping for 16 years” and “my teachers yapping 6 hours every day.”

It’s also been reclaimed as more than just a lighthearted insult by people who love talking. “Forced to work, born to yap,” one TikToker captioned behind-the-scenes footage of two people cleaning what appears to be an industrial kitchen. Some people identify as a “yapper girl” and introduce their talk-heavy videos as “yapping sessions.”

Sierra told Yahoo News that there is some evidence that the word “yap” specifically targeted women’s chatter. Social media users now seem to acknowledge that the term has been used to demean women in the past, and they’re now celebrating “girls who yap.”

“One of my favorite hobbies is just listening to my girlfriend yap,” one TikToker said in a video. “bro your gf yaps so much you’re so lucky,” another social media user wrote on X.

Noël Wolf, a linguistic and cultural expert for the language learning platform Babbel, told Yahoo News that countless words like “yap” have experienced resurgences thanks to viral content and memes on TikTok, X and Instagram.

“These platforms are breeding grounds for linguistic innovation, where influencers and ordinary users alike introduce and popularize new expressions or revive old ones,” she wrote in an email. “Youth culture plays a significant role in influencing language trends online, shaping slang and expressions that reflect their cultural experiences.”

To Wolf, “yapping” is much more than a silly word that has become repopularized — it’s proof that language is always evolving online.

“As our language continues to be shaped by digital communication, we can expect to see more words and phrases from the past making a comeback in the form of memes and internet slang,” she said.

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Harry Luke is a Professor in University of Galway. Harry's journey has been marked by a relentless pursuit of knowledge, creativity, and a commitment to making a positive impact on the world around him.