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American r&b girl group Destiny's Child, left to right Kelly Rowland, Beyonce Knowles and Michelle W...

8 Famous Made-Up Words From Songs You Love

Are you telling me bootylicious isn't a real word?

Paul Bergen/Redferns/Getty Images

Sometimes I wonder what Shakespeare would think about 21st-century language. Like, would he think it’s “dope” that so many of the slang words we use actually have two meanings? Would he be super confused about the fact that being “down” for something actually means the same exact thing as being “up” for it? And, most importantly, what would his thoughts be on all the famous made-up words from hit songs that we know and love? These are the questions that haunt me at night.

IMO, history’s greatest late wordsmiths would probably be v into the colloquialisms and phrases that define today’s lexicon — particularly when it comes to Top 40 music. Over the past few decades, some of *my* favorite words have certainly stemmed from song lyrics, and I’ve always wondered how TF songwriters come up with these creative expressions. From Destiny’s Child’s “Bootylicious” and Cardi B’s “WAP” to Shaggy’s “Boombastic” and the Spice Girl’s “zigazig ah,” I have so. many. questions. And you will, too, after diving into this list of crafty words we all recognize and use (but would never find in an old-timey dictionary).

WAP - Cardi B & Megan Thee Stallion

Amidst the COVID-19 crisis, 2020 was a dismal year for basically everyone. However, rap queens Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion probably changed your life in a much-needed, positive way when they dropped one of the most legendary collabs *ever*, “WAP,” which is all about — y’all already know — wet ass p*ssy.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but WAP is probably the first made-up word featured in a song to go truly viral during the age of social media. From Twitter to Instagram and TikTok, everyone was joking about WAP. In fact, WAP because just as popular of a phrase as B.D.E. (aka, big d*ck energy), which went viral on social media back in 2018.

However, WAP is linguistically superior to B.D.E., thanks to the fact that you can pronounce it exactly how it looks, IMO.

SexyBack - Justin Timberlake

The wolrd was a *far* simpler place back in 2006 when Y2K pop icon Justin Timberlake dropped his second solo album, FutureSex/LoveSounds, and informed us all that he was, indeed, “bringing sexy back,” per the chorus of the album’s lead single, “Sexy Back.”

Where did sexy go? No one really knows. But the track — which marked the musician’s first No. 1 single on the Billboard Hot 100 — reminded everyone that if sexy ever had left the room, it had returned, thanks to none other than J.T. dressed in a suit.

Today, “SexyBack” is regarded as one of Timberlake’s biggest hits, and the word itself jokingly rings more like a vibe than a legitimate plan of action.

Bootylicious - Destiny’s Child

Nobody was ready for the jelly when Destiny’s Child blessed everyone with a new word to add to their Y2K lexicon: “Bootylicious.” Derived from the hit single of the same name, “bootylicious” is probably one of the most impressive instances of a made-up word gaining so much popularity that it morphed into a *real* word — and I’m not complaining!

With lyrics penned by Destiny’s Child member Beyoncé and co-writers Rob Fusari and Falonte Moore, “Bootylicious” was the girl group’s fourth single to top the Billboard Hot 100. The song was also a huge hit overseas in the UK, Canada, and Australia. So, given all that success, it’s no surprise bootylicious — a portmanteau combining the word “booty” with “delicious,” of course — wheedled its way into contemporary editions of both Oxford and Merriam-Webster dictionaries.

Its official definition, per Webster: “Voluptuously sexy and attractive, used especially in reference to a woman's shapely buttocks.” Sounds about right!

Zigazig ah - Spice Girls

Obviously one of the most iconic examples of lyrical nonsense is the phrase “zigazig ah,” introduced to us by none other than the legendary Spice Girls. The ‘90s brought music lovers a handful of made-up words (keep reading to find out more), but “zigazig ah” is definitely the ~spiciest~ one.

Originating from the British girl group’s smash 1996 single “Wannabe,” the catchphrase is instantly recognizable by anyone born before the 2000s, and for good reason: “Wannabe” was an international sensation, not only topping charts and earning a double-platinum certification in the UK, but also conquering radio waves in the States and tons of other countries.

The 1996 track was not only wildly catchy but pretty mysterious. For years, everyone was wondering exactly what “zigazig ah,” meant, and it wasn’t until 2017 that one of the song’s co-writers anonymously revealed the truth behind the song’s meaning, per the Sun and Marie Claire.

“There was this one eighties pop dude who hated us for encroaching on what he considered ‘his turf’ which was boy bands and girl bands,” the unnamed source explained. “This guy had this nasty habit of taking a dump in the shared [toilet] while smoking a cigar, so we took to referring to him as ‘Sh*t and Cigars.’”

OK, gross — but the phrase “sh*t and cigars” does sound like “zigazig ah,” so I guess it makes sense.

MMMBop - Hanson

When Hanson broke onto the scene with “MMMBop” back in 1997, the kid trio won over everyone’s hearts with the debut single’s catchiness — and it wasn’t until you *truly* listened to the song closely that you’d question WTH the made-up word meant. Was it a substitute for a curse word? Was it just a random ad-lib? Or did it actually symbolize something ~deep~?

As a song, “MMMBop” was such a success that Hanson never really *had* to explain what the phrase itself meant; the song topped the Billboard Hot 100 anyway, and today, it’s still considered to be one of the best boy-band tracks of all time. Yet, just a few years ago, the Hanson brothers blessed curious listeners with a surprising definition.

“Well 'MMMBop' as a word [...] represents time,” Zac Hanson told E! in 2018. “It represents the fact that time passes very quickly...And so in a story about reaching for what's important and kind of driving towards the impossible dream, 'MMMBop' is telling you: go now, go now, go now, because in a moment, in an 'MMMBop,' life will be over and have passed you by.”

How profound.

Fergalicious - Fergie

Fergalicious (adj): sort of like bootylicious, but specific to pop-hip-hop crossover queen Fergie, who invented the word back in 2006. Can be rewritten with other names (e.g. Sydneylicious... just throwing it out there).

Housed on her debut album, The Duchess, the song “Fergalicious” is unique in the sense that it explicitly tells its listeners *exactly* what its title means — and 15 years later, “Fergalicious” is still one of Fergie’s most memorable tracks. “Fergalicious, definition make them boys go loco / They want my treasure, so they get their pleasures from my photo,” she sings in the track’s kick-off verse.

Boombastic - Shaggy

Quite frankly, I didn’t even realize bombastic was a word until after I was introduced to Shaggy’s “Boombastic” — so I think the Jamaican singer deserves an honorary teacher’s certificate, TBH.

OK, so maybe I’m giving him too much credit, but no joke: Shaggy’s invention of the word “boombastic” gave society a wonderfully new way to describe someone who is the absolute ish. In fact, I would argue the phrase “Mr. Boombastic” is the ‘90s-guy version of being a “hot girl” in 2021. In Urban Dictionary, boombastic is defined as “fantastic, extremely attractive, sexually arousing,” which sounds about right.

Californication - Red Hot Chili Peppers

The word “Californication” is almost always exclusively associated with the Red Hot Chili Peppers these days. At the turn of the century, the iconic, Los Angeles-hailing band topped rock charts after dropping the anthemic bop, and today, “Californication” is still considered to be one of RHCP’s most commercially successful songs.

But you may be shocked to learn that even though the rock outfit popularized the term “Californication,” the band members didn’t invent it themselves. The word — a portmanteau of California and fornication — initially appeared on the cover of Time magazine in 1966, describing “the haphazard, mindless development that has already gobbled up most of Southern California”... whatever that means.