By Luke Sumpter

With over 1,000 slang terms for weed, there are arguably more names for this plant than any other. A long history of use, interrupted by periods of prohibition, and now, a thriving international cannabis culture have all given rise to this massive lexicon.

Of course, there are botanical and taxonomic names used to describe weed. However, in this article we’ll focus mainly on marijuana slang terms—colloquial words for the plant itself, its flowers, its users, the act of enjoying it, and more.

But first, we’ll touch upon the etymology of key terms such as “cannabis” and “ganja” to provide a bit of background on our favourite herb.

The Etymology of Weed

Etymology—the study of the origin of words—helps us to understand how, and where, certain terms came into being, and how they’ve changed over time. This field of study becomes particularly interesting when we place cannabis in the crosshairs.

Many ancient cultures harnessed cannabis for holistic and industrial purposes, each bestowing the herb with a different name. As a result, we have the terms below—some of which are only gaining strength, and others that are slowly fading into history.

Discover the etymology of weed’s most popular monikers below.

  • Cannabis

The word “cannabis” has its roots in a Scythian or Thracian word[1]. The Scythians, a group of ancient nomadic warriors that dominated the Pontic Steppe, had a reverence for cannabis. The herb played a ritualistic role in the Scythian “cult of the dead”. During this ceremony, tribesmen would gather in tents and fill them with cannabis smoke.

The Scythian term then emerged in Persian as “kanab”, and then into the Greek “κάνναβις” (kánnavis). An example of the Greeks observing the use of cannabis among the Scythians comes from the writer Herodotus, who reported, “...the Scythians have taken some seed of this hemp, they creep under the cloths and put the seeds on the red hot stones…”.

The Greek word subsequently became the Latin “cannabis”. Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus used this term in the botanical classification of the plant[2] in 1753, labelling the species Cannabis sativa L. But what exactly does this term mean? While “cannabis” refers to the plant itself, “sativa” means “cultivated”, and the “L” refers to “Linnaeus”.

  • Ganja

The term “ganja” pops up frequently in cannabis culture. You’ll find it plastered over magazines and seed packets. Despite its modern use, this term has ancient origins. Cannabis has a long history of use in India, where it still plays a ceremonial role. The Vedic scriptures of Hinduism describe the herb as one of five sacred plants with a guardian angel within its leaves.

Compiled between 1500–500 BCE, the Vedas are composed in the ancient language of Sanskrit. “Ganja” originates from the Sanskrit “gañjā”, in reference to a preparation made using the plant. The word also occurs in Hindi—an Indo-Aryan language that descends from Sanskrit—as the word “gāñjā”.

But why does the term appear so frequently across the cannabis space? And why do so many people associate it with Jamaican cannabis culture? This is the result of a cultural fusion between Africans and Indians in the Caribbean. Sadly, this merging of cultures took place under the conditions of slavery. Ultimately, however, it gave rise to the Rastafari faith, and eventually helped cannabis spread throughout Western culture.

The Etymology of Weed

  • Marijuana

Marijuana, originally spelled “marihuana” or “mariguana”, stems from Mexican Spanish. The Oxford English Dictionary states that the term may have its roots in the Nahuatl word “malihuan”, which means “prisoner”.

However, this etymology rose to prominence at the hands of infamous anti-cannabis propagandist Harry Anslinger, who attempted to perpetuate racism by associating cannabis with minorities. Anslinger's actions during the era of prohibition have led some activists to suggest that we stop using the term[3] marijuana altogether.

Bias aside, the true etymology of the word likely has nothing to do with incarceration. Some linguists suggest that such an association stems from accidental homophony. In this case, the term may originate from the Chinese phrase “ma ren hua”, meaning “hemp seed flower”.

Kush, Weed, and Pot

Kush, weed, and pot are essentially slang terms, but they’re used so abundantly that they’ve effectively become part of the widespread cannabis lexicon. While some stoner slang words are fairly localised, these three terms are recognised by users across the world. Let’s take a closer look at them:

  • Kush: People often use the term “kush” to refer to high-quality cannabis, but it also describes specific cannabis cultivars deriving from the Hindu Kush mountain range. Kush varieties are often used as the foundation to create novel hybrids, contributing their unique growing traits, effects, and flavours.
  • Pot: Why do some of us call cannabis “pot”? It has nothing to do with how we grow it! Rather, the term became popular in the United States during the 1930s, and originates from the Spanish “potiguaya”, which comes from “potación”—an alcoholic drink made from steeping cannabis flowers in wine or brandy.
  • Weed: Although usually used to describe an undesirable, invasive plant, “weed” has become an incredibly popular way to refer to cannabis. Users started to call the plant “weed” as a means of disguising their exploits, and it became popular in the 1970s among young people looking to keep their herbal activities under the radar. Of course, that term doesn’t work very well for that purpose these days!

Cannabis Slang Dictionary

Now that you’re familiar with some key cannabis terms and their origins, it’s time to dive into a long list of cannabis slang! These terms range from the archaic to the modern, and from the witty to the downright descriptive. We’ve separated them into different sections so you can come back and browse them with ease.

Slang Terms for the Cannabis Plant

Slang Terms for the Cannabis Plant

There are so many different names for cannabis! Stating all of them would make for a very long article, so we decided to stick with some of the most popular:

A Hindi word used to describe both the plant itself and a beverage made using cannabis, milk, and spices
The smokeable, resin-covered part of the cannabis plant
A word used to describe cannabis in South Africa; it’s also the name of a mildly psychoactive plant in the region called Leonotis leonurus
A term used to describe a range of drugs, including cocaine, heroin, and cannabis
A popular codeword for cannabis in the 1960s; describes the green appearance of the plant
Mary jane
A play on words deriving from the Spanish word “marijuana”
High-quality cannabis flowers that are unpollinated and devoid of seeds
A largely negative term that came about in the 1930s; possibly linked to the Mexican Spanish “grifo”, meaning “smoker of cannabis”

Slang Terms for Cannabis Flowers

Slang Terms for Cannabis Flowers

You thought the cannabis terminology stopped there? Absolutely not! There's a long list of words that describe the flowers alone:


The trichome-laden flowers of the cannabis plant


Describes high-quality or excellent cannabis buds


That’s right; “buds” are indeed the flowers—or female reproductive parts—of the cannabis plant


The compact nature of cannabis flowers gives them the appearance of nuggets when dried and trimmed

Top shelf

A term that describes the best-quality product available

Slang Terms for Cannabis Users

Slang Terms for Cannabis Users

Cannabis users have been subject to a bevy of nicknames over the decades, and most are rather derogatory and stereotypical. These are some of the most common:


A person with an appreciation for nature, a natural lifestyle, and hallucinogens—often seen with a joint in their hand


A person who smokes copious amounts of cannabis


Someone who frequently dabbles in hallucinogenic substances, with a penchant for cannabis

Space cadet

Used to describe someone who is high so often that they are out of touch with reality


Someone who is frequently “stoned” from smoking cannabis; this term is now being embraced by modern cannabis users

Slang Terms for the Act of Smoking Weed

Slang Terms for the Act of Smoking Weed

Even the act of smoking has many titles. Chances are you’re already acquainted with these terms:


Setting fire to cannabis, hash, and extracts to get high


The act of taking a deep inhalation from a bong, joint, or blunt


The gathering of fellow cannabis enthusiasts to smoke weed, munch snacks, and talk deep


To pull on a joint, spliff, or pipe

Slang Terms for Being High

Slang Terms for Being High

“Being high” doesn't quite sum up all of the possible states that smoking weed induces. Here are a few other terms you might want to use:


Describes the tiredness, heaviness, and hunger of being high on weed


Being so high you feel like you’re headed for the moon


The state of being sufficiently high; red eyes and all


Being high to a devastating extent, with a high chance of a “green-out”


The feeling of being sufficiently high, but not overwhelmed; often used to describe the more relaxing, chill effects that follow the peak high


A psychological state induced by cannabis that occupies the territory between wakefulness and sleep

Slang Terms for Cannabis Products

Slang Terms for Cannabis Products

Just like there are thousands of cannabis cultivars available, there are also many different products that derive from the plant. Read the list below to see how many you’ve smoked:


A cannabis concentrate made from rolling fresh cannabis flowers between the palms and fingers


Food infused with cannabis


A preparation high in the active components of cannabis, including cannabinoids and terpenes


A homogeneous mass of trichomes made from dried cannabis flowers


Separated and dried trichomes with a powdery consistency


A cannabis extract made using a combination of heat and pressure; often made at home using parchment paper and hair straighteners


A brittle and glass-like type of cannabis extract

Temple ball

A spherical mass of charas


Similar to shatter, but with a waxy consistency that results from a different heating and cooling process

Slang Terms for Cannabis Smoking Accessories and Paraphernalia

Slang Terms for Cannabis Smoking Accessories and Paraphernalia

How do cannabis users smoke all of these different preparations? They have a large range of smoking paraphernalia at their disposal:


Essentially a cannabis cigar rolled using dried tobacco leaves, dried cannabis leaves, or pre-made blunt wraps


A popular form of water pipe used to smoke cannabis, typically made of glass or acrylic


The part of a bong or pipe that holds weed prior to and during burning


A smaller version of a bong used to cool smoke for smoother hits

Carb hole

Built into the side of bongs and pipes, releasing a carb hole allows fresh air to rush in


A straight smoking pipe traditionally made from clay


Also known as a dab tool, this piece of kit helps to lower dabs down onto a hot nail


A tube that connects a bowl to the inside of a bong below the waterline


An implement that, when red-hot, turns dabs into vapor


A simple smoking instrument that features a bowl, stem, and mouthpiece


A rolled cone containing dried cannabis, sometimes with the addition of concentrates


Another word for a bong setup; often used to describe bongs utilised for dabbing

Shotgun hole

An alternative word for a carb hole


A rolled cone containing a mixture of cannabis and tobacco


A device that uses moderate temperatures to release cannabis constituents into a vapor that can then be inhaled

Slang Terms for Weed Culture

Slang Terms for Weed Culture

You’ll discover myriad slang terms for weed culture as you continue to immerse yourself in the community:


This number stems from a story in which California students would meet up at 4:20 pm to hunt down a rumoured cannabis crop; nowadays it refers to the date April 20th, when cannabis smokers gather all over the world to light up

Refers to July 10th, a date on which cannabis users celebrate cannabis concentrates ("710" looks like "OIL" written upside down)

Someone who hogs a joint during a smoking session

Private reserve

Refers to the highest-quality cured cannabis flowers available from a dispensary

Safety meeting

Code word for a smoking session


A shortened version of “smoking session”

Watch the Marijuana Slang Evolution Unfold

There you have it. You're now fully equipped with a vast cannabis lexicon to draw from whenever you need it. But remember, cannabis culture has evolved underground for decades. As it continues to emerge into the mainstream, we'll likely witness many new words come to the fore. Language, after all, is rather dynamic. Let's see what the future brings!

External Resources:
  1. cannabis (n.)
  2. Science commentary: Cannabis confusions
  3. Marijuana: is it time to stop using a word with racist roots? | Cannabis | The Guardian
This content is for educational purposes only. The information provided is derived from research gathered from external sources.

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