Woke – What does “Woke” mean in British slang?

Hello and welcome back to Slang with me Louisa May Adams. This show will give you the chance to hear, understand the origins and meanings of new slang and to use them immediately! So let’s get started…

Ok so today we will be focusing on a slang word that has got so much negative and positive attention recently. This word is “woke”… So what does it mean?
Is it positive or negative? Let’s explore it and get some answers now!

In formal English woke is a verb and the past of wake: “I woke early this morning”, simple yeah? Not so much when we are using it within slang!

The slang word woke W-O-K-E is an adjective that means to be conscious of racial discrimination in society and other forms of oppression and injustice. Woke sometimes takes a superlative form, “wokest”, emphasizing the extent of someone’s “wokeness”, or the state of being woke.

For example “he always stays woke”, meaning he is alert to injustice in society. Woke can also more generally describe someone as being “with it” or awake to injustice, showing its connection to its formal meaning. The expression “stay woke” is frequently used within social media and the press, referring to a continuing awareness of these issues.

Woke is derived from African-American Vernacular English which is often found in urban communities. The first recorded use of “woke” in its political context was in May 1962 in the N.Y. Times Magazine glossary of “phrases and words you might hear today in Harlem”.

The Times published a piece on white beatniks appropriating black culture titled “If You’re Woke, You Dig It.”

Nowadays “woke” had been adopted as a more generic slang term to demonstrate the need for awareness of an issue. It’s widespread use has been suggested as a result of the black lives matter movement. It is also used by music artist, like Erykah Badu. In her song master teacher she sings “Only master teachers? I stay woke”.

However recently this word has been seen through a negative or ironic lens.
Firstly, it has become the subject of memes and ironic usage, with people mocking the use and need for this term.

Furthermore Barack Obama has expressed his disapproval of “woke”, while speaking at the Obama Foundation summit last month. He commented being woke “is not activism and that it is not bringing about change”, he continued to comment “If all you’re doing is casting stones, you are probably not going to get that far”.

It has now been suggested that woke started out as a way to label people as politically aware and has now become evidence of how politically aware people like to think they are.

So that’s our word of the day! Let us know your thoughts on the positive and negative connotations of woke.

You can find us on our website https://theslangpodcast.com and from there you can see our transcript and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and many more apps.

Let’s catch up soon to explore our next slang word.

Leave a Reply