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Based is a term of admiration commonly used to describe a person who is enlightened, confident, and isn't afraid to voice their opinion, particularly an unpopular one.

Some Internet slang words and phrases remain the same for many years, while others change and evolve as they are picked up by different groups. Based and its meaning definitely fall into the second category.

Enlightened and Freethinking

In Internet slang, a “based” person or opinion is one that is confident, free-thinking, and not influenced by the opinion of others. It is most commonly used in a positive sense, for example, “I love that guy, he’s so based!” It can be used ironically and unironically and have different connotations depending on who uses it.

Based, as a general slang word, originated from the 1980s recreational drug culture. It was used to describe someone who used crack cocaine and is derived from freebasing, a specific method of taking the drug. Someone who was “Based” or a “Basehead” was a person addicted to crack.

Over time, based came to be used to describe someone who acted strangely or eccentrically, even if not under the influence of drugs. This definition stuck around until the early 2000s.

Lil B and What It Means to Be Based

From around 2007, largely due to the influence of West Coast rapper Lil B, the definition of “based” evolved yet again. While regularly being described as quirky and unique, Lil B contributed to an album called Based Boys. When asked what based meant in the title, he is quoted as saying:

“Based means being yourself. Not being scared of what people think about you. Not being afraid to do what you wanna do. Being positive.”

He then started calling himself the “Based God” online, which led to its own initialism, TYBG or “Thank You Based God,” being used among his fanbase. Lil B’s use of social media to promote himself and his music no doubt helped to propagate the more positive definition of Based on the Internet.

The term has more recently been used in discussions of politics to describe someone who publicly supports their political leanings. Figures in that space are routinely labeled “Based” by their supporters online.

Based on What?

Based has spawned several memes. These not only use its now commonly accepted definition and Lil B’s “Thank You Based God,” but also take a swipe at slang misinterpretation.

The best known of these is “Based? Based on What?” which reflects the almost fluid definition of the term. This meme often depicts someone looking confused, such as Joe Pesci, with the words overlaid on the image. This meme within a meme is just the latest of the strange turns the evolution of based has taken in the last 30+ years.

How to Use Based

Based is commonly written as part of a standard sentence. It can also be included as a hashtag to label a comment. It can even be used on its own, as a response to an enlightened comment you agree with.

Here are a few examples of how based can be written:

  • “This guy is speaking the truth #Based”
  • “Yeah, I know what you mean, she’s based”
  • “Grilled cheese is the best food ever! #based”
Profile Photo for Russ Ware Russ Ware
Russ is a freelance writer who specializes in writing about technology. He loves exploring and figuring out how complex things work, and sharing that knowledge with others, something he has been doing online and in print for more than 15 years. When not writing for How-To Geek, Russ can usually be found planning his first novel or taking something apart to see how it works.
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