Sus Spaceship Graphic
Vann Vicente

Why is everyone saying “sus” lately, and what does it mean? Here’s a look into the rise of this unique piece of internet slang.

“Sus” and Its Origins

If you’ve been on the internet lately or spent time with a teenager, you might have heard them call something “sus,” which is shorthand for “suspicious” or “suspect.” Something or someone is “sus” if it or they seem dishonest or untrustworthy.

While the prevalent use of “sus” is a relatively recent phenomenon, the term itself, used to describe untrustworthy things, long predates the internet. People have used the idiomatic expression “suss out” to describe obtaining the truth from someone for decades. You’ve likely heard it from popular crime shows on television.

In fact, the first definition of “sus” on the online slang repository Urban Dictionary dates back all the way to 2003. This means that people have been using this term online for a while. So why has it become such a culturally significant word on the internet? It’s because of a viral video game called Among Us.

The Meteoric Rise of Sus

A smartphone on top of a keyboard with Among Us title screen
Julio Ricco/Shutterstock

 

Among Us is a cooperative multiplayer title that became one of the most successful video games of 2020. Similar to classic party games like Werewolf and Mafia, it involves several crew members of a spaceship working together to identify imposters among them and attempting to vote these traitors out. Those playing together often did it over video chat to maximize the experience.

One of the biggest catalysts for the game’s success was many prominent internet personalities, public figures, and celebrities streaming the game on platforms like Youtube and Twitch. It was in these streams that “sus” became viral. Players would often refer to others as “sus” if they seemed likely to be imposters, often making judgments based on facial expressions or inconsistencies with their story.

Playing Among Us as an impostor.
Playing Among Us as an impostor
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Sus became the central catchphrase of Among Us, and as interest in the game grew, so did the use of the word. There was also a meme surrounding sus, where players would make accusations towards each other with no evidence. Soon, the term made it on its way to the video-sharing app TikTok, where Among Us content was also starting to catch on. It has since become one of the most popular slang terms on the internet.

Sus as Slang

Even outside of Among Us, “sus” has taken on a life of its own. People regularly refer to things as “sus” even when they have nothing to do with Among Us or video games. It’s become part of an average internet user’s vocabulary and appears everywhere from tweets to Youtube videos.

If you want to describe something as “sus,” you might say “That’s sus” or “You’re sus.” Many people say “sus” in real life to describe something that’s suspicious, such as a strange-looking piece of meat in the fridge or a spam email promising millions of dollars in gold.

Sus People and Sus Things

Man looking at woman with suspicion
fizkes/Shutterstock

What’s considered “sus” can be broadly split into two things: sus people and sus things.

Someone is considered sus if you feel like they’re lying or omitting part of the truth. For example, if they seem restless and nervous while talking to you, then you might say “You’re acting kind of sus.” This is also true if someone might be motivated by hidden intentions. For example, if someone asks “Hey, can I borrow your shovel?” and you’re not sure why they want it, you might say “That’s sus.”

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On the other hand, there are also sus things. This can be a literal object, like a fake product that you purchased, or something more abstract, like an offer that seems too good to be true. For example, if the “iPhone” that you bought online seems to be running a 5-year-old version of Android, it might well be described as sus.

How to Use Sus

To use “sus,” substitute it whenever you would say “suspicious” or “suspect.” Unlike internet acronyms that are meaningless if you don’t surf the web, “sus” is general enough that even someone with minimal knowledge of the internet can understand it.

If you want to learn more about internet slang terms, check out our pieces on NP, DW, and IRL. You’ll become an online natural in no time.

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Vann Vicente Vann Vicente
Vann Vicente has been a technology writer for four years, with a focus on explainers geared towards average consumers. He also works as a digital marketer for a regional e-commerce website. He's invested in internet culture, social media, and how people interact with the web.
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