Ghosting, Breadcrumbing, Fleabagging, Kittenfishing & 18 other Dating Terms To Know in 2020


The dating landscape is constantly changing, thanks to texting, apps, and other technologies that are transforming the way we connect with people. Unfortunately, that also means that there’s constantly new terminology to wrap your head around. The term “ghosting,” for example, emerged in the mid-2000s — and while you’ve likely at least heard of ghosting by now (or been a victim of this horrendously rude trend), there are lots of other dating trends to know in 2020. What is benching? What does breadcrumbing mean? And what’s the difference between catfishing and kittenfishing? Fret not — I’m about to clear all of that up.


You may very well know the definition of ghosting by now, but just in case, here’s a refresher: this term describes when someone you were dating suddenly ends all contact with you with no warning whatsoever. They stop calling, they don’t respond to your texts, and you’re left scratching your head over what went wrong (and with zero closure). A 2018 study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships found that about 25% of American adults have been ghosted, and 20% admit to having ghosted someone else.


That’s not the only trend to be aware of, however. So, in the interest of getting you up to speed, here’s a handy little dating dictionary, with thorough definitions of all the must-know slang terms.


There’s no denying that the coronavirus pandemic totally transformed the dating experience — and with that came the rise of Zoom, a videoconferencing app. Unfortunately, not only are people now planning dates on Zoom, they’re also breaking up with people on this platform. If someone ends your relationship over Zoom, you’ve been “zumped.” It may feel awkward (and downright cruel), but many believe this is the next best thing to breaking up in person since you can at least see each other’s faces (as opposed to on a phone call, where you’re missing all of those key emotional cues). And thanks to the CDC’s social distancing guidelines, zumping is sometimes the only option.


If you’re wondering what “fleabagging” is, I wrote a whole blog on it. The gist is this: It’s continually dating people who are all wrong for you. People usually end up fleabagging because they’re lonely (and thus settling for someone they’re not compatible with), have a deep-rooted “type” that doesn’t ultimately serve them well, or have unrealistic standards. If you’re trapped in this cycle of dating people who don’t actually meet your needs or desires, know this: Fleabagging is super common. In fact, a 2019 PlentyOfFish survey revealed that half of all singles have done this (and interestingly, more women are guilty of this trend than men).



You’ve been dating someone new for a month or two, and things are going swimmingly — but you get this nagging feeling like it’s not going anywhere. What gives? One reason why your relationship may not be progressing is that you’re being “benched.” Benching refers to when someone only texts and plans dates just often enough to maintain the status quo but is also keeping their options open. They like you, but they’re not fully sure if they’re ready to commit or if you have long-term potential. The term comes from sports, as in when a player has to remain on the bench until the coach calls them out.


Just as the name of this term implies, “breadcrumbing” refers to stringing someone along. They might leave a “like” on your latest Instagram post or send a sporadic flirty text. But the reality is that those little breadcrumbs they leave you to spike your interest are probably all you’re going to get. Why? Because when someone breadcrumbs you, they’re typically either just trying to get a quick dose of validation, or they like the power trip of knowing they’re keeping you on the hook.

Catch and Release

Some people just love the thrill of the chase — and once that’s over, they lose interest immediately. They reel you in, and once they’ve proven they can catch you, they release you back into the wild. If you’ve ever hooked up or gone out with someone, only to have them vanish into thin air afterwards, you may very well have experienced this obnoxious and immature dating phenomenon. Remember: a person who practices catch and release does not have any intention of actually dating you, and they never did — it’s all a game to them.


Online dating comes with all kinds of inherent risks — one of which is being catfished. Essentially, this refers to when someone creates a fake profile to fraudulently lure you in. The term can be traced back to the investigative MTV series Catfish (and the 2010 documentary of the same name) that follows couples who started building relationships online but have never met in person.


You know when you start to sense that a breakup is fast approaching? Well, some people will try to “cushion” the blow of that impending split by talking to and even flirting with other people just as their current relationship starts going downhill. That way, they already have someone else lined up once they become single again. (This could definitely be considered “microcheating” — but more on that term later.)


This common acronym stands for “defining the relationship” (otherwise known as “the talk.”) In other words, it’s that anxiety-inducing yet necessary convo most couples must have in order to figure out where they stand (strictly hooking up? Casual but exclusive? Boyfriend and girlfriend?) and where their relationship is going.



Another popular acronym, which stands for “friends with benefits.” It’s a casual relationship that’s usually centered around sex with no strings attached.

Gatsbying AKA Instagrandstanding

If you’ve ever used Instagram to try and capture the attention of someone you like, you may be guilty of this one. “Gatsbying,” also known as “Instagrandstanding,” refers to curating the perfect post that will ideally get your crush to take notice, “like” it, and maybe even feel inspired to DM or text you. It’s named after the main character from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel — as Gatsby would often throw lavish parties solely for the purpose of impressing Daisy.

Haunting AKA Zombieing

Ugh, is there anything worse than an ex who texts you out of the blue just after you finally got over them? When someone is “haunting” or “zombieing” you, they probably ghosted you before and are not essentially coming back from the dead with no warning whatsoever. These terms can also refer to when someone starts suddenly interacting with your social media posts without actually getting in touch with you.


Think of this as a slightly more innocent form of catfishing. Someone who’s “kittenfishing” you won’t create an entirely fake online persona, but they also won’t be entirely honest about who they are, either. Maybe they lie about their job, exaggerate a lot about their lifestyle, or only include photos of themselves from 10 years ago. Regardless, it’s a huge bummer when you finally meet up with them IRL and realize that they portrayed themselves inaccurately in order to win you over.


When a former flame gets in touch with you (or straight-up tries to get back together with you) right around the holidays, that’s called “marleying.” The term is named after A Christmas Carol’s Jacob Marley who comes back to haunt Ebenezer Scrooge close to Christmas. People who engage in marleying are often just feeling lonely (or looking for a date to the zillion holiday parties they have coming up).


Social media and smartphones in general have definitely complicated the concept of fidelity. Is it OK to “like” or comment on a hot Instagram model’s photos if you’re in a relationship? What about exchanging potentially flirty DMs or texts with a coworker? All of these examples might be considered “microcheating.” While regular ol’ cheating means physically hooking up with someone else, these acts usually entail making a different kind of connection with other people behind your partner’s back. Only you and your partner can decide what constitutes microcheating — you may be fine with the fact that they follow supermodels on IG as long as they don’t message or interact with them, or you may consider that being unfaithful. The point is, just because microcheating doesn’t involve sleeping with someone else doesn’t mean it’s not hurtful.


This term is often used interchangeably with haunting and zombieing. While they do largely mean the same thing, haunting and zombieing can entail a former love interest actually getting in touch with you, whereas “orbiting” usually means they’re just lingering on your social media feeds. They won’t text you back, but they’ll retweet your latest meme, watch your Instagram Story or “like” your Facebook post. Basically, they want you to know they’re keeping tabs on you but they probably have no intention of actually dating you again, so they just creep on you from afar. This term was originally coined by Man Repeller writer Anna Iovine, who described it as being “close enough to see each other; far enough to never talk.” According to Iovine, there are a few main reasons why someone might orbit you: it makes them feel like they’re in control, they don’t know what they want, or they want to keep the door open in case you both find yourselves single and want to hook up or hang out again.


It’s one thing to mutually decide on keeping things casual with someone so you can both date around. It’s another thing to deliberately hide the fact that you’ve been seeing other people behind your new partner’s back, even when monogamy is implied. The latter refers to “roaching.” The worst part? When you find out and confront them about it, they usually claim they didn’t know you had an understanding to be exclusive.

Sidebarring AKA Phubbing

When it seems like your date is more interested in checking their texts, social media notifications, emails, etc. than getting to know you — they’re “sidebarring” or “phubbing” (as in phone snubbing) you. Yes, it’s rude, and yes you can call them out on it. When you’re on a date, you should always take priority over what’s happening on their phone, unless there’s some kind of emergency.


There’s a bizarre sort of limbo that lots of people find themselves in — a pseudo-relationship based around convenience without the serious commitment or labels. This is not to be confused with FWB, which is distinctly casual. In a “situationship,” you might go on actual dates and even form a deep, emotional connection (in addition to having sex) but you never officially DTR. Some of the hallmarks of a situationship are only making last-minute or short-term plans, not hanging out consistently, and rarely or never talking about the future.


Whereas ghosting entails just dropping off the face of the earth, the slow fade is a more gradual process. If someone is doing this to you, they’ll probably just start contacting you and responding to you less and less frequently, until they’ve eventually disappeared altogether. It seems like it might be a kinder form of ghosting, but actually, it just drags out the agony of the inevitable.



Ever dated someone who avoided introducing you to family and friends and never mentioned you on social media? They might be “stashing” you — in other words, hiding you away, which can leave you wondering WTF is going on (are they ashamed of you?). There are several reasons why people resort to stashing. For example, they might be seeing multiple people (and they’re less likely to be found out if they keep you a secret). Or, they may simply have been burned before, and are compartmentalizing you until they’re certain there’s a future so as not to get hurt.


When someone you were romantically involved with ghosts or slow fades you, then randomly resurfaces with no apology and pretending as if nothing happened, that’s called “submarining.” I’m a firm believer that people need to take responsibility for their actions — and this behavior is not just insulting, it can also be downright manipulative.



Does it feel like your relationship doesn’t even exist outside of your text conversations? If so, you’re probably in a “textlationship.” I always say you can’t really get to know someone until you’re face to face, so be careful of falling too hard for someone who has yet to make plans with you IRL. A textlationship may feel convenient in the fast-paced 21st century, but it’s severely limiting. And keep in mind that if someone is down to text you around the clock but refuses to make plans, they may just be breadcrumbing you and have no intentions of starting a real relationship.


There’s no denying that the coronavirus pandemic totally transformed the dating experience — and with that came the rise of Zoom, a videoconferencing app. Unfortunately, not only are people now planning dates on Zoom, they’re also breaking up with people on this platform. If someone ends your relationship over Zoom, you’ve been “zumped.” It may feel awkward (and downright cruel), but many believe this is the next best thing to breaking up in person since you can at least see each other’s faces (as opposed to on a phone call, where you’re missing all of those key emotional cues). And thanks to the CDC’s social distancing guidelines, zumping is sometimes the only option.


If your head is spinning from all this terminology, don’t stress — you can always turn to matchmaking as a way to get a grip on these ever-changing trends. Not only can I get you up to speed on all the latest slang terms, but I can also help you to understand how they play a role in your own love life as well as offer advice on how to deal with them. Because let’s face it: Knowledge is power, and that’s definitely true when it comes to dating.







HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS, Dylan McDermott, Charles Durning, Robert Downey Jr., Holly Hunter, Cynthia Stevenson, Anne Bancroft, Geraldine Chaplin, 1995, (c) Paramount/courtesy Everett Collection

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