Born in the 60s and raised by hippies, I burned incense, met gurus, visited communes, hitchhiked in VW busses, and wore flowers in my hair.
"Don't bogart that joint, man."
"Turn on, tune in, and drop out."
"Let your freak flag fly."
Those long-haired tree-huggers sure had a unique way of talking. The 1960s and 70s saw momentous shifts in political, social, and environmental awareness. Those evolutions in consciousness needed brand new words and phrases to describe what was happening. Here, you will find a translation of some of some excellent words and phrases that came from that time, with descriptions of what they mean and examples for how to use them in conversation.
Why would you want to talk like a hippie? In the words of Carlos Santana:
The 60s were a leap in human consciousness. Mahatma Gandhi, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Che Guevara, Mother Teresa—they led a revolution of conscience. The Beatles, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, created revolution and evolution themes. The music was like Dalí, with many colors and revolutionary ways. The youth of today must go there to find themselves.”
Hippie Slang Words
Bread = dough = money. Instead of working for money, a hippie prefers to focus on what they'll do with that money (buy bread).
What a bummer, bummed out, or bummed are all 60s' ways of saying that you're depressed or disappointed about something. This term seems to come from the phrase bum rap, which means you've been treated or punished unfairly.
When you "dig" something, you really like, understand, approve, or enjoy it. "Can you dig it?" is a way to ask if someone understands or is cool with something.
If something is depressing or disappointing, a hippy calls it a "downer," a word that probably comes from the 1960's drug culture when the familiar term for stimulants was "uppers" and tranquilizers were called "downers." So if someone is a downer, they make everyone around them feel kinda sad.
Hippies use this word to describe a mental state of being completely caught up in and immersed in the present moment. If you "go with the flow," you are relaxed and accepting of a situation rather than resistant and opposed to it.
When a hippie takes too many drugs, their brains might "fry." Being "fried" is being too high on drugs (usually acid, mushrooms, or some other hallucinogen). In the 60s, lots of hippies fried their brains on acid and never fully recovered. If you're fried, you are exhausted, worn out, and overextended. Anything that "blows your mind" might leave you fried.
A term for the police (aka "pigs"), also known as the heat or The Man.
This term was coined in 1961 by science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein in his novel Stranger in a Strange Land and it means to understand something fully—not just to know but to also fully empathize with it or understand it so utterly that you merge with it and it becomes a part of you. To know is human, but to grok is divine.
"Groove" or "Groovy"
Like the needle on a record, if you are "in the groove" then you're performing well or feeling confident, relaxed, and present in the moment, moving with the flow. "If something is "groovy," you really "dig it" (like it) and it brings enjoyment (like dancing). That song is really groovy, man.
Your "hang-ups" are your personal peeves, faults, or problems. They are the places where you get emotionally stuck, the emotional baggage your carry, or the emotional and psychological barriers that surround you.
A head is a person who does drugs (as in "pothead" or "acid head"). A "head shop" is a store that sells drug paraphernalia. A "head trip" is something that confuses, amazes, or messes with your mind (don't give me any more head trips, man, my brain is fried already!).
"Hip," "Hippy," or "Hippie"
In the 60s, "hip" meant cool, stylish, or aware (like a hipster or a hepcat). It probably originally came from the African-American jazz scene of the 50s. Jack Kerouac (who wrote On the Road) described his cool friends as “the new American generation known as the ‘hip’ (the 'knowing').” And in the early 60s, the term hippie was coined to refer to the new generation of beatniks, the young, "woke" people of the counterculture who rejected The Man and his Establishment and preached love and nonviolence instead of capitalism, conformity, and war.
A hit is a dose of a drug, like a "hit of acid" or a "hit from a joint." Give me a hit. Hit me up.
If something is "heavy," then it is deeply profound or weighs down on your conscience. If someone is heavy, they are serious, deep, important, or intense. That movie was so heavy that I had to sit down under a tree and think, man.
"The Man"; "The Establishment"
The Establishment (capital E) refers to the entrenched ruling class or prevailing capitalist hierarchy. The Man (capital M) is any person who represents the Establishment, the government, or any other authority, any person who's in a position of power. The Man defends The Establishment in order to benefit from it.
Mellow wasn't a new term in the 60s, but it did become widely used then to describe something or someone that's calm, cool, unworried, and laid-back, like the feeling one gets from smoking marijuana. Of his famous song if 1966, "Mellow Yellow," Donovan said: "To be 'mellow' is to be cool, to be laid back, but it doesn't have to be with a smoke. It can be through meditation." If you tell someone to mellow out, you're asking them to chill out or calm down.
Top quality. That grass was primo!
When something it's intense, vivid, mind-bending, consciousness-expanding, or mesmerizing, it's psychedelic (like LSD).
Your "treads" are your clothing. Typical hippie threads included patched jeans, peasant blouses, halter tops, tie-dye, floral granny dresses, fringed vests, bellbottoms, and cutoffs. Those are some groovy threads, man.
"Trip" or "Trippy"
When you get high on drugs, you "take a trip" or go on a mental journey. If something is "trippy," then something about it is so unusual or amazing that it makes you feel like you're in a completely different place (or on drugs). Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters had a bus they named Further to take them on literal and metaphorical trips around the U.S.
Hippies believed that emotions could be felt tangibly and that people and situations could be understood by attuning to their emotional or psychic vibrations. If someone gives you good vibes, that means you have a positive feeling about them.
Hippie Phrases, Expressions, and Quotes
- "Blow your mind." If something "blows your mind," it it so surprising, overwhelming, exciting, amazing, or disturbing that it momentarily or permanently destroys brain function. That book blew my mind!
- "Far out." When something is amazing, unusual, radical, or unconventional, it is far out. This phrase applies when a subject or idea is so radical that it expands your consciousness beyond this universe.
- "Flower power." The poet Allen Ginsberg coined this term in 1965 at an anti-war demonstration. It was meant to characterize a non-violent way of opposing the status quo (as opposed to gun power, which is how The Man maintains control). Hippies wore flowers in their hair and offered them to the police during anti-war protests as a gentle gesture of peace, love, and resistance.
- "Free love." The counterculture of the 1960s included a reevaluation of the rules and traditions around relationships. Convention dictated strict and binding rules about relationships and marriages, rules that were oftentimes difficult or harmful to people (especially women and gay people). The hippies experimented with the idea that people should be free to love whomever, wherever, and whenever they want.
- "Get laid." Have sex.
- "Go with the flow." This expression reflects the Taoist philosophy of living in the moment and being open and accepting instead of resisting, struggling, or trying to control things.
- "If it feels good, do it." In line with the idea that love should be free, this expression was used to urge people to release their inhibitions and fears and "follow their bliss."
- "Keep on truckin'." The Grateful Dead's famous song and underground cartoonist R. Crumb both helped popularize this phrase, which means keep moving forward in life with hope, positivity, and purpose.
- “Make love, not war.” In a nutshell, this slogan encapsulated two of the main ideas of the 1960s counterculture: peace and love (as opposed to war and subjugation). This is just one of the phrases that protestors would chant at anti-war demonstrations.
- "Get off of it." If someone tells you to get off of it, they mean stop acting so high and mighty. Let go of your ego, step down off your soapbox, and calm yourself.
- "Out of sight" or "outtasight." This is what you'd say when something is so appealing or amazing it blows your mind. That girl is outtasight!
- "Right on." Use this expression when you agree with someone or something. It's like a verbal thumbs-up.
- "Spaced out" or "spacey." Not mentally present; distracted, dreamy, and/or possibly stoned.
- "Turn on, tune in, and drop out." Timothy Leary, the Harvard professor who was most famous for his research in and advocacy of psychedelic drugs, first said these words and they became a mantra of the movement. By urging people to "turn on," he meant to awaken your mind by taking drugs. "Tune in" meant to become aware of reality, and "drop out" meant to stop believing and participating in society's collective fantasies and false narratives.
- "With it." If you are with it, that means you are awake, alive, and aware. It could also just mean you're hip and cool.
- "Let your freak flag fly." Originated in Jimi Hendrix's song "If 6 Was 9" and popularized by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's song "Almost Cut My Hair," this expression means don't let the world suppress your true self, don't be afraid to let your true self be free, be proud and unapologetic of who you are. A "freak" is another word for a hippie, and your "freak flag" might be your long, tangled, unwashed hippie hair.
- "Far out." This expression translates as "wow," "that's amazing!" or "I'm impressed."
- "Right on!" An expression of strong agreement or support; an emphatic YES!!!
- "Question authority." Another bumper-sticker-worthy catchphrase from Timothy Leary that became a mantra of the movement, it means don't be a sheep, don't follow blindly—instead, think for yourself and challenge the narrative of the powers that be.
Other Words for "Hippie"
- iconoclast or nonconformist
- flower child
- freethinker or free spirit
- beatnik or peacenik
- demonstrator, protestor, radical, or activist
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.