420 Day: Why There Are So Many Different Names for Weed
T here are at least 1,200 slang terms related to marijuana — or cannabis or hashish or weed or pot or, as some say, asparagus. And there are hundreds more to describe one’s state of intoxication after imbibing the drug, according to slang scholar Jonathon Green.
Collecting slang has been the work of Green’s life, and the 69-year-old refers to drugs as one of slang’s “best sellers.” That’s because slang and things-you’re-not-supposed-to-mention-in-polite-society go hand in hand. As TIME has reported, that unmentionable quality is what led five California high-schoolers to coin the term 420 in the 1970s, which likely led to April 20 becoming the de facto day of doobies. But that association goes back to the earliest recorded slang from the 16th century, coined by those who didn’t want authorities to know what they were talking about.
But why are there hundreds and hundreds of words for pot? With any slang, as adults or authorities become wise to what one term means, that’s a signal that it’s time for a new one. And the wide variety of people who smoke marijuana across the globe were bound to come up with different words. Green says he doesn’t see the creativity waning even as U.S. states and other countries move to legalize marijuana.
“The terminology doesn’t really emphasize illegality: It is the illegality that created the need for the terminology,” he says. And, Green adds, the creation of such terms is not only “seen as ‘fighting the man,’ it is also simply fun.”
Here is a selection of weed’s many synonyms from Green’s online database, with his research on where the terms come from, grouped by the likely inspiration for their coinages.
Because of its effects
airplane – because it gets one “high.” Also see “parachute” and “pocket rocket”
amnesia – because it can make one forgetful
climb – might be a play on getting “high,” might be a play on “climbing the walls”
doobie – may be related to another slang meaning of doobie: a dull, stupid person
good giggles – because it makes people laugh
Houdini – because the user “escapes” reality
reefer — a Spanish derived word. “Grifo” is Mexican slang to describe someone under the influence of marijuana, because “grifo” can refer to tangled, frizzy hair and therefore a similar mental state. That became “greefo,” which then became abbreviated as reefer
spliff — this likely comes from the verb splificate, which may be fanciful and may be a combination of the words stifle and suffocate. Whatever its origins, the word describes confusing or confounding someone
Because people like it
ace – slang for something superior
baby – a term of affection for the drug
green goddess – green for the color, goddess for the experience
Because it is a (green) plant
alfalfa – also slang for beard, money and tobacco
asparagus – also broccoli, parsley, sassafras and turnip greens
bud – the name for the part of the cannabis plant that is smoked
Christmas tree – also fir. “Lumber” can refer to unwanted twigs in the bud
grass – also bush and weed
green – for the color, the same reason it is slang for money. Similar slang terms are green stuff, greenery and green tea
herb — among Rastafarians, who use the substance religiously, this term has been used to emphasize that it is “natural” like other herbs. With a similar flare, the substance has been called “mother” and “mother nature,” as well as the “noble weed” and “righteous bush”
Because of language
Aunt Mary – a pun on marijuana, just like Mary Jane, Mary Warner, Mary Weaver, and Mary and Johnny
da kine – this Hawaiian surf slang can refer to anything for which one forgets the precise name
dona Juanita – “lady Jane” in Spanish, a play on marijuana
ganja – derives from a Hindi word for the hemp plant
marijuana – the Spanish name for the plant. Many in legal U.S. markets have tried to move away from this term, because of its association with the illegal drug trade, and instead use cannabis
muggle – unknown origin but the use of “muggle-head” to mean marijuana-smoker dates to the 1920s
pot — derives from the Spanish word for marijuana leaves, potiguaya
rainy day woman — this may come from the Bob Dylan song with the chorus line “Everybody must get stoned”
thirteen — the first letter of marijuana is the 13th in the alphabet
Because of the way a joint is shaped
alligator cigarette –may also be related to an alligator’s general lack of speed
bag of bones – multiple marijuana cigarettes
blunt – though the wrapper of any cigar can be used today, early users of the term used the brand Phillies Blunt
stogie – this slang term for an over-sized marijuana cigarette comes from a slang word for a cigar. That term, in turn, comes from an abbreviation of a large heavy horse breed, Conestoga, because the men who drove them were associated with smoking those products
Because of quality
cabbage – poor quality bud, perhaps resembling the vegetable
catnip – inferior or fake marijuana
chronic – the word meaning extreme or severe came to describe marijuana with strong effects
dank – this term started out describing unpleasant, swamp-like things and, like “bad” itself, then came to describe good things, like marijuana of the best quality
Nixon — named after the president, refers to poor quality bud being sold as high quality bud
On 420 Day, here's a selection of the most popular names for marijuana, and where those words come from
Words for Marijuana
While the whole plant produces THC and cannabinoids, cannabis users typically smoke the flowers to get high — these buds contain significantly more THC than other parts of the plant. Different names for different consumable forms of marijuana have sprouted from various regions and age groups. On top of that, there are scores of slang words that have evolved over the years. Below you can learn about all of the different synonyms we’ve come across to date.
Know of a slang term that we missed? Submit to the open-source cannabis dictionary!
A traditional Indian preparation of cannabis that is often made into intoxicating food and drink. Bhang is culturally significant to Hindu spiritual culture, and it is an important part of the Holi festival when bhang-laden chutneys and lassis are sold in celebration. It also has a place in the medicinal culture of India, as it’s believed to assist with digestion and sleep. Because of this, cannabis is legal but regulated in India and people can purchase bhang at government-licensed shops.
“Drinks made with bhang are pretty good as long as they’re sweetened enough.”
Any particularly high-quality weed. While Chronic is the name of a specific (and legendary) hybrid strain, the term bomb chron generally tends to refer to anything better than what you usually smoke. Bomb chron is ideally lush in color, fresh-smelling, and covered in trichomes. It’s always disappointing when someone tells you they’ve got bomb chron, but it turns out what they have is no better than ditch weed.
“Did you finally get more of that bomb chron?”
A common term for cannabis in general, but also used more specifically to refer to the smokable flowers of the cannabis plant. It’s often grown and distributed in smallish, fragrant clumps. These are usually ground by the consumer and smoked, but after grinding they can also be decarbed to make edibles and other goodies
“I’m just want to grind up some bud and have a good time.”
Common term for cannabis, traditionally in flower form. Not to be confused with the actor and martial artist Sonny Chiba, or the city in Japan. It derives from the Spanish “Chiva,” the term for heroin, but Brazillian stoners soon adapted it as slang for weed. Cheeba Chews, a brand of potent, weed-infused taffy available in Colorado, California, Nevada, and Oklahoma were named after this popular term.
“I managed to get a great deal on some cheeba today, so let’s burn one tonight.”
While Chronic is the name of a specific hybrid strain, stoners use it as a slang term for exceptionally strong cannabis. The definition even differed depending on your location: East Coast dwellers used “chronic” to refer to cannabis laced with cocaine, while the West Coast used it to describe high-quality weed. The ’90s West Coast rap scene cemented the latter meaning as definitive with Dr. Dre’s beloved triple platinum album ‘The Chronic’ and sextuple platinum ‘Chronic 2001’.
“Woah, vaping that chronic got me hella stoned!”
A South African word from marijuana that dates back to the 1600s. The term originates from the Khoekhoe language and indigenous tribe from South-Eastern Africa. In this dialect, the term also means ‘a feeling of intoxication’. Since the word has been adopted it has been spelled many different ways including daggha, dacha, dacka, tagga, and dachka.
“The bus took forever but a local shared some dagga weed so we enjoyed the wait.”
While dank often has a negative connotation in everyday English, it’s very positive when referring to cannabis. Any weed that is particularly potent in smell, flavor, or effect can be considered dank. In more recent times, dank has even been used as a general positive descriptor, so it’s not uncommon to hear younger people referring to memes or delicious foods as being “dank.”
“Wow, that White Widow is so dank, I can smell it all the way over here!”
Also called “feral cannabis.” Essentially, it refers to cannabis plants found growing in the wild. These plants are remnants of the days when industrial hemp was grown in the midwest, and as a result, they have little-to-no THC content and are not suitable for consumption. While some entities put forth efforts to eradicate ditch weed, it’s a low priority for many, since it’s similar to trying to get rid of thistle or dandelions.
“I used to be jealous of my older brother, who bragged about smoking ditch weed. Now, all I can think about is how low-quality that feral weed must have been.”
Also called “indo.” While the etymology is hard to pin down, most agree that it generally refers to cannabis plants that are grown indoors using hydroponic systems. Indoor-grown cannabis is favored over plants grown outdoors by many since temperature and weather control results in a consistently high-quality product. In fact, high-quality weed is often called endo as slang. This term can also be used as a shortening of the “endocannabinoid system,” but this is not as common.
“Thanks to legalization, I was introduced to the wonders of endo. I’m never going back!”
While it can be used to describe strong, high-quality cannabis positively, Fire is also the name of a specific Indica-dominant strain. It earned its name from its appearance. The little red hairs growing all over the nuggets give it the look of being ablaze. It’s perfect for unwinding after a stressful day, although it may be too strong for those not familiar with Indicas.
“As a big fan of indicas, I can’t recommend Fire enough!”
The smokable (or concentratable, or decarbable, etc.) bud of the cannabis plant. It is usually cured, and it takes the appearance of densely packed green nuggets, sometimes with hairs of red or orange here and there. The most common preparation of flower is to grind and smoke it. When decarbed, it can be used like any other dried herb in foods to transform any dish into an edible.
“I’m picking up some flower later if you want to stop by and hang out.”
The oldest English-language slang term for cannabis, dating from before 1700; it’s derived from the Sanskrit word for cannabis, gañjā. Probably the most common nickname for weed in Jamaica, it gained traction in the United States after Peter Tosh (formerly of The Wailers) used it in his 1975 song “Legalize It.”
“This is my favorite dispensary to buy ganja.”
High-quality cannabis. It’s most likely shortened from some variation on “the good stuff” or “the good kush.” While many other terms exist for denoting stellar weed, this one gets straight to the point: it’s good. The opinion of what consists of “good” weed often varies in prohibition states due to limited availability, with one’s “good” being another’s “terrible.” However, legalization has allowed for a standardization of quality that gives consumers a good idea of what to expect based on price point.
“This weekend, I’m planning to marathon Star Wars and smoke the good.”
It’s no wonder that the term “green” became slang for cannabis–high-quality weed is well-known for its lush coloring. It likely originated as a more low-key way of referring to weed in areas where it’s illegal, but nowadays it’s pretty much common usage. The color itself is also used to on adult-use storefronts and medical dispensaries (such as on green crosses or signage) that signal the sale of cannabis and its related paraphernalia.
“I’m running low on green. Anyone want to come with me to the dispensary?”
Ground cannabis. It’s not surprising to learn that, when ground or shredded, cannabis flower can look like any other fresh herb, like basil or oregano. In fact, cannabis is considered an herbal remedy, since it’s a naturally occurring plant that has many nutritional and medicinal properties! Also, cannabis flower can be used as a garnish in weed-infused dishes, much like other culinary herbs.
“I can’t wait to get my paycheck, so I can try out more of my favorite budtender’s herb recommendations.”
Slang for weed, often used by those who don’t smoke often (or at all). The name comes from the association of cannabis with the hippie movement of the 1960s. Cannabis is also green, so the association with lettuce is only natural. This term is sometimes used facetiously by stoners who like to joke about the “reefer madness” crazes of old.
“Aw, I’m out of hippie lettuce. Guess we’ll have to save that smoke session for next time.”
The effects of Indicas and Sativas differ for many smokers, but it is possible to have the best of both worlds! Hybrids are strains made by crossbreeding two differing plant phenomes resulting in genetics with a unique combination of effects from both parents. Some hybrids can be 50/50 strains, meaning they’re a perfect balance, but Indica-dominant and Sativa-dominant hybrids exist for those who prefer one over the other.
“I never know what situation I’m going to end up in when I get high, so I stick to hybrids to be ready for anything.”
One of two species of cannabis plant, the other being Sativa. Indicas originate from the Indian subcontinent and generally are regarded as having more stoney, body-affecting, relaxing effects than Sativa plants. Indicas are perfect for nighttime use and can help medical patients with sleep or anxiety issues.
“I like to smoke indicas before bed to help me sleep.”
A Jamaican slang term for cannabis that was originally popularized by reggae legend Bob Marley. Marley frequently referred to cannabis as Kaya in his music and even released an album of the same name. The etymology of the term is unknown, but it seems to be related to the Caribbean English word “kayakiit,” which is a medicinal herb.
“Let’s get together and smoke some Kaya tonight.”
Weed can’t kill you, but sometimes it’s so good you have to hyperbolize it! The term “killer bud” refers to any particularly potent cannabis that can surprise even a veteran stoner with its effectiveness. Killer bud is usually on the top shelf at dispensaries.
“If you’re a newbie, you shouldn’t jump into killer bud right away or else it’ll mess with your tolerance.”
An L-shaped joint or blunt, which is formed with two rolling papers in an L formation. This style of rolling creates a larger cone at the end, making an impressive look. It has no relation to the other slang use of “L,” which refers to a loss of some sort.
“I rolled an L for us to smoke before the party.”
A common slang term for cannabis. This refers specifically to the euphoric and energizing effects of THC consumption, and the use of “grass” as a slang term. While this term is losing popularity nowadays, it tends to be used in a more quirky, tongue-in-cheek way by some users.
“Why don’t we spark up that laughing grass and put on a movie?”
Cannabis described as loud is especially potent and has an odor so strong that if it was a noise the only way to describe it would be ‘Loud’. Loud weed is said by many to be stronger and faster-acting than normal product, and while it can get users higher faster, it can often also cause negative side effects like anxiety.
“I need a way to keep this loud from stinking up my bedroom.”
A play on words deriving from a literal translation of the Spanish word “marijuana.” It’s a common nickname for weed, and it especially became popular due to Rick James’ 1978 hit of the same title, in which he proclaims to be in love with a woman (aptly called Mary Jane) who always knows how to make him feel better. As the song says, cannabis can be used to relieve depression and anxiety symptoms, and it’s also perfect for when you just want a nice, relaxing time.
“Sorry, I can’t go out tonight. I’ve got a date with Mary Jane.”
Cannabis has been used medically for centuries across hundreds of different cultures. In adult-use states, the term Medical applies to products used by patients rather than recreationally. With unique anti-inflammatory properties, cannabis and CBD products have been used by patients to treat pain, swelling, anxiety, insomnia, appetite loss and much more.
“I enjoyed the Adult-Use dispensary but I prefer to buy Medical products.”
“Mid-grade” cannabis, which is neither top quality nor particularly bad. Mids may have some visible trichomes on the flower, as well as a pleasant, fresh smell, but it often is not as dense or long-lasting as a high-quality weed. The quality of mids has increased dramatically in the past few years with the legalization and popularity of cannabis usage, so it can be a great introductory point for new or returning smokers.
“How much do mids usually go for as compared to top shelf?”
Literally translated as “speck” or “mote,” this word is Spanish slang that is meant to describe a small amount of cannabis. This term is used in Latin America and many southern states in the US where Mexican immigrants have settled. The term for weed is also lent to a heavy cannabis strain ironically called ‘Motavation’.
“Traveling through Latin America you might find a dub sack of mota, but don’t get caught with it.”
Derived from “nugget,” nug is a synonym for the dried bud of the cannabis plant. Most cannabis flower is sold in bud form, allowing users to choose based on trichomes and customize their own grind. Nugs can vary wildly in size depending on the plant, which is why selling by weight is so popular.
“I like to save the biggest nug in my stash for last.”
Pakalolo is the Hawaiian word for cannabis, which spread into English language usage during World War II. It gained a resurgence in popularity after its use in a biography on former president Barack Obama, where it’s revealed that he used to smoke pakalolo quite regularly. It tends to be used most often in beach settings, and the term itself can also be used to describe a person who smokes cannabis.
“My family’s visiting from the mainland, so I want to treat them to some fire pakalolo.”
Strains of cannabis that feature purple hues in their flower buds. The color comes from the flavonoid anthocyanin, which utilizes its color in nature to attract insects and increase pollination. Many consumers believe the purple color is a sign of quality or potency, though this is difficult to confirm.
“I picked up a gram of purps just because I think the bud color is pretty.”
A slang term for cannabis. While the exact etymology is uncertain, one potential origin is the Spanish word “grifa”, a term for cannabis. The word was popularized as slang by the film Reefer Madness (1936), an early anti-cannabis propaganda film that has gained cult status for its, frankly, ridiculous plot.
“My mouth is so dry because of all that reefer we smoked before we got here.”
One of two popular species of the cannabis plant, the other being Indica. Regarded as clear-headed, uplifting and energizing. Sativas are great for getting in the right headspace for creative work and physical activities such as hikes or workouts, but some especially potent strains can actually induce anxiety attacks instead of relieve them.
“I prefer to smoke a Sativa right before my workout.”
This term refers to the unfertilized cannabis plant and directly translates to “seedless”. When a female cannabis plant is unfertilized it does not grow seeds and instead grows dense, sticky colas. This is the desired plant life cycle for cannabis growers, and the term is often used to describe quality, top-shelf buds.
“Only sensimilla in the grow room, we don’t want any of the ladies fertilized during flower.”
A colloquial term for excellent cannabis buds that references the sticky nature of trichome dense top-shelf cannabis. The phrase was made popular by West Coast hip hop legends in two songs released in November of 1999. Originally E-40 used the term in his 1999 bop “Do What You Know Good”, and just weeks later the term was featured in the widely acclaimed “Still D-R-E” by Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg.
“When I break up that OG Kush I can see it’s that real sticky icky.”
Cannabis flowers that were grown outdoors using the light of the sun rather than indo grown with LEDs or other light systems. Sungrown cannabis often tests with lower THC but a more full-spectrum array of cannabinoids. Sungrown is popularly grown in Mediterranean climates like Vancouver, BC, Southern Oregon, and the famous Humboldt Triangle.
“If that top-shelf adult-use weed is too heady, pick up some Sungrown for a more balanced effect.”
This slang term for cannabis originates in the 1940s when it was essential to use codes when talking about marijuana. Now with adult-use shops and new products on the market, there are actually teas infused with cannabis, which has given the slang term new meaning in cannabis culture.
“Don’t forget the tea, I’m trying to toke up later.”
Cannabis plant bud, or more generally, any cannabis. It refers to the idea of cannabis as a plant, especially because the plants themselves can look like small trees. This term was especially popularized by the r/Trees subreddit, a growing source of cannabis culture, which leads to hilarious mix-ups when arborists seeking discussion stumble across the group. Fans of dendrology (the study of trees) eventually started the r/MarijuanaEnthusiasts community as a silly callback to the confusion.
“I re-upped my tree supply last night, so I’m set for the weekend.”
The combination of two popular slang words for cannabis combined into one word that also refers to bud. Treefer combines the words ‘tree’ and ‘reefer’. Its use does not connote any particular meaning to the flower, it just seems to be used as a fun way to refer to your stash.
“Could you hook it up with some treefer so I can get tatered tonight?”
A lighthearted term for cannabis flower popularly used in the advent of 1950’s “reefer madness” culture. Wacky tobacky is a reference to tobacco, probably because both were rolled up into paper and then smoked, but one made the smoker a little bit more silly. The word is not often used in modern cannabis culture unless as a joke.
“Put out that wacky tobacky, it smells of reefer all the way out to the sidewalk!”
Slang for weed in Spanish-speaking countries, but don’t confuse it with the heavily caffeinated tea Yerba Mate. For someone looking for herb in a foreign country asking for yerba would be a more generic term. For a tourist seeking something specific like a joint or a dealer more specific slang would be needed.
“Finding yerba was the main goal on our trip to Mexico last Summer.”
Synonyms for marijuana: weed, herb, ganja, pot, mary jane, and more. Learn about all of the different synonyms for cannabis in our vocabulary archive.