Woman saluting in a sign of respect.

Has someone done you the honor of calling you an OG? It’s a sign of respect. We’ll explain what an OG is and how to use this slang term to refer to someone you admire.

Original Gangster

Taken literally, OG stands for “original gangster.” If that doesn’t seem to line up with the places you’ve seen this acronym in, don’t worry. While the literal definition might appear different, the abbreviation “OG” has taken on a life of its own in the past few decades — from its origins in the 70s to the present-day on the internet. You can write it in both the uppercase “OG” and the lowercase “og.”

While its definition has changed slightly through the years, at its core, calling someone an OG is an expression of deep respect or admiration for someone. It can refer to someone trailblazing or innovative, such as an artist who popularized a musical trend or a fashion style. This is the closest to the term’s initial definition of being “original” or “first” at something.

OG can also mean “exceptional” or the best in a particular field. In this use case, OG is synonymous with GOAT, or “greatest of all time.” You might say “Tiger Woods is an OG” to refer to his excellence in the field of golf, for example. You can also use OG to refer to friends or personal relationships, particularly people who have stayed authentic with you over a long period. For example, you would call friends who’ve been by your side since childhood to be OGs.

RELATED: What Does "GOAT" Mean, and How Do You Use It?

The History of OG and Original Gangsters

OG and “original gangster” come from African-American Vernacular English or AAVE. The phrase was coined in the 1970s by the Los Angeles-based Crips gang whose members self-identified as the OGs, or the first gangsters to emerge. Later on, they would use this term to refer to people who have been deeply committed to the gang for a long time. Younger members would often call older members OGs.

The term entered mainstream consciousness through hip-hop, which incorporated a lot of words and ideas from gang culture. You can find it in rap lyrics throughout the 80s and 90s, most notably an Ice-T song named “O.G. Original Gangster,” which made its way onto the Billboard charts.

Eventually, it arrived on the internet. While the first Urban Dictionary entry is from 2004, OG has exploded in popularity in the late 2010s with the rise of platforms like Twitter and TikTok. As a result, you’ll often find memes saying things like, “Only OGs will know this,” referring to an inside joke that only people with a specific set of experiences will understand.

What Is an OG?

Like many terms, the exact meaning of OG can vary drastically based on the context, especially since it’s had so many definitions throughout the years.

The most basic way to use OG is a shorthand for “original.” For example, you might say, “Adam West is the OG Batman,” in reference to the fact that he’s the first one to play a live-action Batman in a filmed show. This usage is widespread, so much so that you’ll find many people who use it without actually knowing what it stands for.

As stated earlier, an OG is also authentic, exceptional, or admirable. Young people often call older people, like their grandparents, OGs. You’ll also see this for historical figures, artists, sports legends, and anyone who deserves admiration. So if someone refers to you as an OG, you should take it as a huge compliment.

You should also take note that the letter “G” is right next to “H” and “F,” which is why OG is commonly autocorrected to “oh” and “of.” So if you see an “OG” that doesn’t seem to make any sense at all, it might be one of those other words. Alternatively, some keyboards autocorrect the lowercase “og” into “of” or “oh,” so make sure to check your message before sending it out.

How to Use OG

Using OG is pretty simple. Use it to refer to people who you feel are original, authentic, or exceptional. Depending on the context, you can also call someone “my OG,” which means you have a special relationship with them.

Here are a few examples of OG in action:

  • “Prince was the og performer.”
  • “My grandpa has been through some crazy stuff. He’s an OG.”
  • “You’re my OG. Through thick and thin, you’ve been there for me.”
  • “Christopher Reeve is the OG Superman to me.”

Do you want to learn about other internet acronyms? Check our explanations on TBF, IRL, and WBK to expand your online slang vocabulary even further.

RELATED: What Does "WBK" Mean, and How Do You Use It?

Profile Photo for 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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