Dictionary.com

That’s So Bae: Beyond the Noun Uses of Bae

bae

Over the last couple of years, the term bae has achieved widespread usage. While the noun form has been around for over 10 years, adjectival and verbal uses, along with other related forms, have more recently started popping up to describe the people and things we love, or at least like-like. Twitter, in particular, is rife with interesting new uses of the term. The popular social media platform has been used to mine language change for years and has inspired some recent linguistic scholarly research.

Dictionary.com defines the noun bae as: “Slang. an affectionate term used to address or refer to one’s girlfriend, boyfriend, etc.” Many have debated the etymology of bae, some insisting that it derives from the acronym “Before Anyone Else.” The earliest evidence of this connection on Twitter is from a July 19, 2011, tweet, making “Before Anyone Else” a backronym of bae, which first surfaced in rap music and on Urban Dictionary in the early-to-mid-2000s. A much more likely etymological explanation is that bae is a shortening of baby or babe.

When bae appears as a noun, its meaning is relatively set: it’s a term of endearment. However possibilities abound as bae moves into to other parts of speech. These days bae has gotten a lot of mileage out of its robust use as an adjective. My guess is that adjectival bae (or what I’ll call adjectival bae for now) at first pointed to the original boyfriend/girlfriend/significant other sense, as in the following examples:

But adjectival bae goes beyond literal significant others, and into the realm of fantasy significant others. If you were to call a celebrity bae, there’s an implicit understanding that this is make-believe; you don’t actually know this person (David Beckham) and you probably wouldn’t date him if you did (unless you are a former Spice Girl). Additionally bae can be used to describe people who are cool or hot or stylish or wonderful, whether or not you have any romantic interest in them.

Things can also be bae. In fact, this is so common, it has sparked internet outrage.  

Sometimes the actual part of speech of emerging slang can be hard to identify. Just look at the debates among linguists surrounding the part of speech of because x. While in the above examples, bae resembles an adjective, is bae really an adjective? Let’s take a closer look at “pizza is bae.” The following constructions commonly appear:

  • Pizza is bae.
  • Pizza is so bae.
  • Pizza is my bae. 
  • Pizza is the bae. 

All of these examples express the same sentiment: “I love pizza.” The second example is clearly an adjective, but part of speech is more murky for the first example. Could there be an omitted-yet-understood possessive pronoun or definite article implied here, as fully spelled out in examples three and four? Is “Pizza is bae,” a shortening of either “Pizza is my bae” or “Pizza is the bae”? Could bae be part of an implied noun phrase? Returning to Ashley Ford’s tweet “Oh, he wants Meg Ryan to be Bae so he don’t want to tell her he’s Rich Bookstore Man?” we see that Ford capitalizes bae, giving it proper noun treatment. Is this because bae is part of the implied noun phrase “his bae?” Or does bae stand on its own as an adjective here? We’d have to ask the individual tweeters to know for sure, and then, they might not even have an answer. With just the written source material, part of speech remains ambiguous.

Bae has shown itself to be a very productive new element of English. Not only does it straddle parts of speech, but related forms of bae have emerged as well. You can be baeless or baeful, and you can achieve baeness and baedom. You can be super-, uber-, or extra-bae.

Bae can also be used as a phrasal verb, as in “bae it out”:

You can even use baenoculars.

Bae is used as a verb meaning “to make someone your significant other,” as in “to bae or nah to bae.” While William Shakespeare gets credit for popularizing countless terms in English, it’s safe to say he did not coin the verb use of bae.

Bae is sometimes also used as a superlative, as seen above in the pizza examples. People or things can be “the baest” or “the bae.”

While some English speakers wish to banish the word bae, the Twitterverse and beyond has found bae to be an extremely adaptable and productive term, far more flexible than baby or babe. Now that bae has achieved high levels of pop-culture saturation, perhaps it will lose its edge (maybe it’s already lost its edge). Or maybe it will further establish itself as a go-to term of endearment and become a fixture of English.

77 Comments

  1. T-bag -  September 7, 2016 - 7:56 pm

    Phil Lester is BAE

    Reply
  2. 504Native -  July 7, 2016 - 11:29 am

    The uninformed have taken a French-based term of endearment and trivialized its use and meaning. In cultures with remnants of broken French in their language (like Louisiana), this word has been used forever.

    Reply
    • Rachel -  August 31, 2016 - 5:22 pm

      Yo where do you live

      Reply
  3. Anonymous -  March 5, 2016 - 9:53 am

    As I always like to say, A’s before Baes

    Reply
    • Lucas Neukirchner -  December 12, 2016 - 11:20 am

      Yo, check mark.

      Reply
  4. moomoo -  February 13, 2016 - 7:44 pm

    my friend is bae she is the baest bae you can ever find

    Reply
  5. other joe -  February 13, 2016 - 8:52 am

    People think they make things up, and it’s cute.

    Bae is French as mentioned above… And it is also a filipino term of endearment… Has been for a long time.

    No one made it up recently, they just discovered it recently.

    Reply
  6. Anonymous -  February 11, 2016 - 5:08 pm

    Bae, Hashtag, and selfie are the most RETARDED words I’ve ever, EVER heard.

    Reply
    • JimmyJimmerson -  February 11, 2016 - 5:09 pm

      espeialy selfie

      Reply
    • Marcus Elliott Warmsley -  February 13, 2016 - 11:31 am

      Just the popular influence of hip hop “swag” if you will … i feel that bae is kinda gray as a form of concise communication…but as for fun, l suppose it’s ok! bae 1ne!;-)

      Reply
    • moomoo -  February 13, 2016 - 7:45 pm

      I just feel so hurt

      Reply
      • markeisha -  May 24, 2016 - 11:04 am

        KISS

        Reply
    • kfriendly -  August 30, 2016 - 1:29 am

      “YOLO” is way worse though, and I’m not a fan of “swag” at all either.

      Reply
      • kfriendly -  August 30, 2016 - 1:31 am

        Oh and THOT and ratchet, i can’t stand those ones.

        Reply
    • Leilani -  December 9, 2016 - 11:11 am

      Amen to that

      Reply
    • The weirdo of dustox -  December 12, 2016 - 10:32 am

      I agree with this statement completely.
      THEEES!

      Reply
  7. M -  February 11, 2016 - 2:14 pm

    I got one word for yah

    Bae

    Reply
  8. LASUDHKLWUHOA*SHDLKJHASDOWLHASDJKHAKLSDHLAKSJHLIEFHAIULDS -  February 11, 2016 - 12:52 pm

    As always, A’s before BAE’s xDDDD

    Reply
  9. Tony -  February 10, 2016 - 1:59 pm

    This is the first time I’ve ever seen this bizarre word and hopefully the last.

    Reply
    • yasmin -  February 12, 2016 - 12:45 pm

      boy is u fr this omfg lord u have sent a stupid one <3

      Reply
    • Oleg -  February 12, 2016 - 11:33 pm

      AMEN to that! What a ridiculous, unnecessary term.

      Reply
    • Janet -  October 5, 2016 - 6:16 pm

      I don’t mind “bae”, and I understand it’s a rather versatile word…
      But it’s kind of like math- I appreciate its beauty and purity like a frozen, moonlit landscape… from afar.
      Still, I won’t deny that saying it makes you look like you lost your tongue on the subway to Taiwan, so…
      Yeah.

      Reply
  10. sadie sucks -  February 10, 2016 - 11:19 am

    trool

    Reply
  11. Literate Old Bae -  February 10, 2016 - 9:35 am

    I’m from the 60s. We used lots of new slang words like groovy and psych. But please put me out to pasture and shoot me if I ever use this word.

    Reply
    • Cody -  February 12, 2016 - 7:43 am

      I agree with you a lot and I am only 16

      Reply
    • ... -  December 11, 2016 - 4:55 pm

      …leave me alone

      Reply
  12. Pat -  February 10, 2016 - 6:01 am

    The word bae (spelled Be ‘with e accent egu) has been part of the French language forever and is short form for bebe and used as a term of endearment with couples. It’s now been borrowed and anglicized and become all the rage on social media. This is no worse than ‘le hot dog’ or ‘bon weekend’ that are now accepted and widely used in French language.

    Reply
    • Noah -  February 13, 2016 - 8:33 pm

      Not necessarily. It is also an abbreviated version of “Before Anything Else.” It very well could be that there was a coincidence or a correlation between the two, but from my previous knowledge, “bae” is a term used to describe someone or something that is important above all else.

      Reply
      • Noah -  February 13, 2016 - 8:36 pm

        Pardon me, but I have simply repeated what the article explains in the first paragraph. I had not read the whole paragraph before continuing on to the various uses. My apologies.

        Reply
  13. Horse_Lover_001 -  February 9, 2016 - 5:25 pm

    I got lots a bae’s☺️

    Reply
    • Horse_Lover_001 -  February 9, 2016 - 5:26 pm

      Stupid thing keeps re-typing!

      Reply
      • chris -  February 10, 2016 - 11:11 am

        bae in the dutch language also mean the s word in english

        Reply
    • yasmin -  February 12, 2016 - 12:46 pm

      boyy no u don’t u could hardly even afford one

      Reply
  14. Joe -  January 18, 2016 - 3:54 pm

    Please Am i wrong to say, you can sing whenever you like but you can’t sing at night’, If am wrong please make me known.

    Reply
    • Cody -  February 12, 2016 - 7:45 am

      no you are not wrong

      Reply
    • joe -  February 12, 2016 - 11:55 am

      ok then…

      Reply
  15. Sheila Rae Conrad -  October 9, 2015 - 8:23 am

    Girl who has no bae

    Reply
  16. samueloscopy -  May 16, 2015 - 4:41 am

    Dictionary.com is my bae ….lol…don’t get too attached.

    Reply
  17. SISIPHO -  April 11, 2015 - 2:51 am

    B-b#$ch
    A-aint
    E-even mine

    Reply
    • Mara -  August 3, 2016 - 9:49 pm

      Yes. But, he’s not a B.

      Reply
  18. joe -  February 25, 2015 - 10:54 pm

    Those hipsters in that picture definitely look like the kind of people who I’d imagine using this word.

    Reply
  19. Twentydragon -  February 15, 2015 - 7:19 pm

    I’m now even more convinced that this term needs to just disappear (along with “hashtag-” as a prefix). But of course, as is the nature of language, it won’t.

    Reply
    • Keke -  February 11, 2016 - 3:04 am

      I keep seeing that it’s Dutch for poop, turd, excrement, etc. I’m not calling anyone that, nor do I wish to be called that. It’s all a bunch of horsebae.

      Reply
  20. Jarquanzela -  February 12, 2015 - 2:04 pm

    Im tots ma goats like bae

    Reply
    • Anonymous -  February 11, 2016 - 5:05 pm

      That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.

      Reply
  21. alien -  February 12, 2015 - 10:47 am

    #i’mawesomebecausei’mabaeandihavemillionsofbaes

    Reply
  22. Cameron -  February 12, 2015 - 10:35 am

    It means poop.

    Reply
    • Booty -  February 13, 2015 - 11:22 am

      YOU MEAN POOP! D:<

      Reply
    • Keke -  February 11, 2016 - 3:05 am

      Exactly! All this junk here is horsebae!!!

      Reply
  23. Monty -  February 11, 2015 - 12:54 pm

    This “word” needs to be taken out back and shot.

    Reply
    • oaml ,yya -  February 10, 2016 - 10:07 am

      i agree

      Reply
    • Keke -  February 11, 2016 - 3:06 am

      My sentiments exactly. It’s all bullbae.

      Reply
    • Anonymous -  February 11, 2016 - 5:05 pm

      This guy is amazing

      Reply
    • kfriendly -  August 30, 2016 - 1:34 am

      Hilarity!

      Reply
  24. sara -  February 4, 2015 - 5:59 pm

    Clay Is Bae
    -BF

    Reply
    • kat -  February 13, 2015 - 5:01 pm

      true dat

      Reply
  25. Kar -  January 28, 2015 - 11:04 pm

    How is ‘bae’ pronounced?

    Reply
    • Ella -  February 8, 2015 - 6:36 am

      Bay

      Reply
    • Nate -  February 11, 2015 - 4:03 pm

      It’s pronounced “bay,” as in the water kind of bay.

      Reply
    • Keke -  February 11, 2016 - 3:07 am

      It’s pronounced “poop.” Because it is. :)

      Reply
  26. PAL -  January 15, 2015 - 11:24 am

    Huh, that’s interesting.
    A friend of mine only ever talks about her bae, when i asked her what the term meant she said, “Before Anyone Else you…” well i’m not going to mention what else she stated.
    But that’s what compelled me to click on this link. It’s actually a lot more interesting then i thought it would be.

    Reply
    • Keke -  February 11, 2016 - 3:09 am

      She mentioned the Danish translation, didn’t she?

      Reply
  27. illiterati -  January 11, 2015 - 11:13 am

    I am now completely enlightened about bae. I never thought that would happen.

    Reply
    • Jordonomin -  February 11, 2015 - 2:40 pm

      Same here. Bae is so much cooler of a term than i thought, and i already thought it was awesome.

      Reply
      • oaml ,yya -  February 10, 2016 - 10:08 am

        I hate bae

        Reply
    • Ria -  February 10, 2016 - 7:37 pm

      Same, waaay more interesting than I thought it would be.

      Reply
    • Keke -  February 11, 2016 - 3:09 am

      I just made a bae earlier. Check out its Danish translation. :)

      Reply
  28. Aly -  January 11, 2015 - 9:49 am

    Found this via dictionary.com app. Wow.. I guess I can’t let my kids read your blog. While the etymology of cuss words is fascinating, the referral to iamcuntbag’s Twitter name is unacceptable. How nice to hear, mommy, what’s a c#untbag?

    Reply
    • BAE -  February 10, 2015 - 5:52 pm

      correct me if im wrong but no ones name is that

      Reply
    • j -  February 11, 2015 - 10:47 am

      i guess you aren’t going to let them anywhere near the internet at all then. yeah, good luck to you.

      Reply
    • Hugh Janus -  February 12, 2015 - 9:41 am

      Troll

      Reply
    • Kat -  February 12, 2015 - 12:40 pm

      I agree, I’d hate it if my kids said that!

      Reply
      • BookWorm -  February 12, 2015 - 3:57 pm

        Actually, bae formed from the mispelling of babe and means babe. It’s not an acronym. It just blows my mind youth are ignorant enough to use it as a verb or adjective

        Reply
        • oaml ,yya -  February 10, 2016 - 10:10 am

          ikr its so annoying when everyone around you is talking about their “bae”

          Reply
    • GA -  October 31, 2015 - 4:33 am

      It’s not a cussword! Why would you let your kids read the etymology of cusswords anyway? But BAE is a word that talks about best friends.

      Reply
    • kfriendly -  August 30, 2016 - 1:37 am

      That’s what you get for being breeders, having “baes”. A lot of awkward questions. Get used to it.

      Reply
      • kfriendly -  August 30, 2016 - 1:39 am

        P.S. It’s unattractive to whine like a “bae” about a message board. Grow up.

        Reply

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