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Here’s what those online dating bios mean

Words by Maeve Kerr-Crowley

The translations you didn’t know you needed.

These days, dating and online dating are basically synonymous. The vast majority of people are looking to apps like Tinder and Hinge to find love, sex, light flirting and everything in between.

The convenience of having a dating pool in your pocket is offset by the ever-evolving nature of the dating world, and all the acronyms and terminology that come with it.


For more dating advice, head to our Life section


Because the whole world is at our fingertips, many people use easily identifiable labels to denote their identity and preferences in their bio. Familiarity with these shorthand labels will make it easier to find the right people and relationships for you.

Additionally, as the capability of apps grows, our expectations and understanding of dating evolve. We find ourselves having to define, shift and re-define the boundaries of what’s acceptable behaviour and what’s a red flag, leading to a system of meticulously categorised dating behaviour. In the tradition of ghosting and catfishing, these dating archetypes are often referred to using names with a [noun]-ing formula.

So, to help you deduce whether you’re DMing with a roach, a zombie or a vulture, here’s a directory of all the terminology you might come across in your online dating journey.

FWB

An acronym for Friends With Benefits. You know, like the Justin Timberlake movie. This is a long-standing idea denoting a friendship where you also have sex. The level and frequency of both elements is largely situational, so don’t forget to establish your boundaries.

Ghosting

We’re probably all familiar with this one by now. You’re dating or talking to someone for an extended period of time, getting good and invested, and then they disappear without a trace. Poof. Like a ghost.

Zombieing

Zombieing is the next step in some ghosting journeys, when one day the ghost pops up in your DMs again. The dead rise and hope you won’t suspect that they want to eat your brains – or heart.

Orbiting

Orbiting is when you break up with someone but they don’t disappear completely. They might still follow you on social media and watch all your Instagram stories but, like a planet in orbit, they never get close enough to actually speak to you. If they ghost you then hang around like a bad smell, it’s called ‘haunting’.

ENM

Ethical Non-Monogamy (sometimes referred to as Consensual Non-Monogamy or ‘CNM’) is a type of polyamory where every party involved consents to the open nature of the relationship. This requires honesty and a clear understanding of each other’s boundaries.

Soft launch

The process of delicately ‘launching’ a new relationship into the public eye. Instead of just telling everyone you’re no longer single, you might post a photo of two glasses of wine, then one with a mysterious arm in the frame, then a carefully-lit silhouette that hides your partner’s identity. The idea is to keep the details to yourself until you’re more sure of the relationship. Then, when you’re confident things are working, you can move forward with a hard launch.

Roaching

Born from the adage,“If you see one cockroach, there are probably more nearby”, roaching is when someone you’re dating hides the fact they’re also seeing other people. Casual dating is cool. Lying and misleading people is not.

Wokefishing

Wokefishing is like catfishing, except instead of pretending to be someone else, they’re pretending to be a more progressive version of themselves. They might talk up their investment in social issues or parrot what they’ve heard others say. This is a tactic for impressing someone you’re pursuing, playing on causes you know they’re passionate about without a sincere interest.

Benching

Like underperforming athletes benched during the big game, benching is the process of keeping romantic partners on standby in case another relationship doesn’t work out. This often goes hand-in-hand with ‘breadcrumbing’, where party A will drop enough crumbs of affection and attention to keep party B on the hook, without ever committing to the relationship. Think a sudden text that says “Hey, how’s it going?” followed by weeks of silence, then rinse and repeat.

Cuffing

Cuffing Season is a dating phenomenon where, as soon as winter arrives, people become more likely to commit to relationships. Something about shorter days and colder weather makes people want to cuddle up with someone at night.

Freckling

The other side of the cuffing coin, freckling is the pursuit of a summer romance – dating with the idealised vision of sunny picnics and trips to the beach in mind. Blame Grease or any other piece of media that talks up summer flings.

GNC

GNC or Gender Non-Conforming is used to indicate that a person’s gender identity or expression doesn’t align with the gender they were assigned at birth. The acronym is used by a number of identities, including but not limited to non-binary, agender and genderfluid people.

Love bombing

Most often seen at the start of a new relationship, love bombing is when a partner showers you in affection, gifts and compliments to get you hooked and possibly even disguise their misdeeds. It’s a manipulation tactic that rarely lasts and can direct your attention away from a plethora of red flags.

Dom

The person who takes a more dominant role in a relationship, usually during sex. An aspect of BDSM, a Dom plays a powerful, authoritative role for sexual pleasure.

Sub

The counterpart to a Dom, a Sub plays a more submissive role in a relationship or during sex. Typically, they hand over a lot of control to the Dom and play a more obedient part in sexual encounters.

Switch

Because nothing is black and white, especially in relationships, a switch holds a kind of middle ground between Doms and Subs. Switches are comfortable playing both dominant and submissive roles during sex, and will inhibit both roles to varying degrees.

Situationship

You’re not just having sex, but you’re not a couple either. A situationship is a fuzzy grey area somewhere in the middle, where you’ll often act like you’re in a relationship without fully committing to being in one.

Negging

Negging is a term that’s been around for a while, and describes a dating tactic where one person will subtly (or not so subtly) insult the other in order to undermine their confidence. In theory, this makes the negging victim feel more grateful for the negger’s attention and therefore more likely to date them.

Pocketing

If you’re in a seemingly happy relationship but have never met your partner’s friends or made an appearance on their social media, you may be experiencing pocketing. Also called ‘stashing’, this is when your partner keeps you completely separate from the rest of their life.

DTR

DTR stands for Define The Relationship – the elusive ‘what are we?’ that can make or break a relationship. This conversation can be scary, but when in doubt, talk it out.

Groundhogging

Groundhogging is a pattern of dating behaviour where you repeatedly pursue the same kind of person, even if you know it’s a bad idea. They may look the same, act the same, have the same red flags. Your friend who only dates men who look like the rat from Flushed Away and keeps getting hurt in the same way is likely stuck in a groundhogging loop.

TERF

Often seen in bios stating ‘No TERFs’, this acronym stands for Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist. It’s a term used for people who use feminist rhetoric and ideas as a vehicle for transphobia, essentially making the argument that trans women aren’t women. If someone’s bio says no TERFs, they mean don’t talk to me if you’re a transphobe.

Vulturing

If you ever see a relationship on its last legs and there’s a third party conspicuously hovering on the outskirts licking their proverbial lips, you’ve spotted a vulture. They’re waiting for the breakup, hanging close enough by that they’re an obvious choice for a rebound.

Catch and release

This is a cheeky moniker for a one-night stand. You catch someone, have sex, then release them back into the dating app wilds to go about their business.

Unicorn

Used primarily in polyamorous circles, a unicorn is a third party (often a bisexual woman, but not always) who joins an existing couple with the expectation they’ll date and have sex with both members of the couple, without officially joining the relationship.

For tips on curating your own dating bio, head here

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