Decoding The Love Island Lexicon

Unpicking the language of Love Island, from 'melt' to 'stick it on her' The Debrief decodes the lexicon of love

Decoding The Love Island Lexicon

by Annie Lord |

As they microwave their bodies under the Spanish sun, the cast of ITV2’s Love Island are using their own unique language to communicate with one another. From ‘grafting’ to ‘that’s well muggy’ the islander’s speak the verbal equivalent of peach and aubergine emojis. You don’t really know what the words mean because they have no official Oxford Dictionary definition (yet), but, then again, you just kind of know what they mean, don't you? How does such a condensed lexicon of shagging and fighting emerge so quickly after 17 days in a neon villa in the middle of Spanish nowhere? ?

Judith Baxter, emeritus professor of applied linguistics at Aston University.html){:target=_blank :rel=noopener noreferrer}, puts it down to contestant’s need to establish a community: ‘Its human nature to construct communities where people feel safe and understand the rules of engagement. If someone is speaking in a way you don’t understand then you’re not going to engage with one another so instead people construct a common language. These words and phrases function as a shorthand. Like a code which cuts out unnecessary explanations.’

Just like all language which emerges from a fundamentally patriarchal society, these phrases are imbued with implicit gender codes which encourage men and women to perform in certain ways. But, instead of crusty grey-haired men in suits, Love Island is ruled by men in tight white skinny jeans and fitness models who glug protein shakes like water. As Judith explains, this turbocharges the performance of gender. ‘Historically there have always been double standards around men and women. In Love Island what you are getting are extreme versions of masculinity and femininity. The big boobs, the muscles: this is part of a performance of gender of which their language is an extension.’ So what do their favourite terms and turns of phrase indicate about how men and women interact? I diligently have watched all 17 episodes (purely for research purposes) to find out...

‘She’s wifey material’


On episode 3 of Love Island Dom, Kem and Sam sit watching the girls work out. Sweaty and aroused, they leer at their bodies. ‘Camilla is so respectful in every way’ says Dom the perverse X Factor judge. The camera cuts over to Camilla pushing her pelvis into the stale atmosphere in thick cotton gym shorts and an M&S v-neck. Socially awkward and with a job in dismantling bombs (srsly), Camilla’s presence in the villa appears to be the consequence of a misplaced Grand Designs application. ‘Like obviously all the girls are in bikinis and she’s just in shorts and a t-shirt’. Damn! That’s why I get no male attention. I should be wearing a wetsuit to the beach because, as Dom confirms, ‘she’s wifey material’. Here the men in the villa perpetuate the whore/virgin dichotomy whereby more conservative women are to be respected whereas women who are more provocative are treated as objects to fulfil sexual pleasure.

‘I like natural girls’

In episode 7 Chris sits with Gabbi on a sun lounger discussing his partner Chloe, his arm cocked up like an ancient Greek statue. ‘You said you don’t like all the fake stuff’, Gabbi asks him. Chris’ nose crinkles up like he’s smelt something rotten, ‘I fucking hate it’. He clearly doesn’t know what a ‘natural’ woman looks like. The producers should bring one onto the show, with a fluffy 80s bush and leg hair so long that the Islanders think she's basically part centaur. Chris does fancy fake girls. But, then again, his own physique isn't particularly natural. His pecs bulge out like a pair of shallow arse cheeks and his shoulders sag to the point where he’s almost inhibited by his own brawn.

‘That’s muggy’

This term essentially means ‘you made a fool out of me’. Whilst girls use ‘muggy’ when they’ve actually been wronged, most of the guys on Love Island throw it around every time they’re threatened so that the term loses its meaning, becoming something inchoate and undefined. Whether it's Sam calling Mike ‘muggy mugs’ for stealing Olivia or Sam accusing Chris of mugging him off by getting with Olivia or Kem getting annoyed at Amber for literally hugging Mike, the guys in the villa repeat ‘muggy’ almost as much as Blazing Squad chant ‘Crossroads’.

‘I feel like the best thing we can do is go over, clear the air’, says Amber, as she, Jess and Chloe go reassure Mike after a turbulent re-coupling. Even though there’s nothing sexual about the exchange (Amber touches him as one would a weird uncle) Kem still manages to get annoyed, ‘oh my God she does my head in sometimes’ he wails in his cock munching bootie shorts, ‘she doesn’t even know the geezer, whose team are you playing on here, it was more muggy to me’. He pronounces the term with such clarity it’s like he is trying to get Siri to work.


Previously the domain of surgeons, ‘grafting’ no longer refers to skin transplants but rather working hard to have sex with someone. The Islanders make out it’s really difficult, lamenting the graft like they’re on round 11 of the bleep test. But in reality, it seems pretty easy. On one episode Jess is shown blushing under a duvet, ‘he’s grafting int he bless him’. The camera cuts to Dom who’s pouring a cup of boiled water into some Nescafe Original. No wonder Jess banged him.

The women of the villa continually reiterate through glossy lips, ‘I am not into grafting’ because they must remain passive during the seduction procedure whilst the men take control. Although women have power when they’re being grafted, this is only to the extent that they’re able to wield their sexuality as a weapon.


In the villa, ‘melt’ refers to a man who’s a bit soft. In episode 7, Olivia delivers the blow of the century to her ex-partner Sam (the one that looks like he came from some knock off X Factor boy band called something like True Harmony or Forward Progression) ‘you need to be less melty’. He looks back at her, mouth closed tight into a thin line like a shrivelled letter box. He knows it’s all over.

Olivia is ick-ed out by Sam and his dripping desperation, his tongue always trying to jab down her throat, his clammy hands clutching her thigh, his silly 12-year-old head. Sam is the tuna melt Panini of melts, glooping everywhere like sopping processed cheese.

In using such opaque language, Olivia and the rest of those who decry ‘melt’ can obscure what they’re really saying which is ‘man-up’. The women of the villa want someone who’s essentially a hollowed-out inflatable with nothing inside except titanium hard banter. It is a reductive stereotype which limits out conceptions of masculinity, encouraging men to keep their emotions locked down. They should throw women against walls, eat chicken and brown rice and smother themselves in Lynx and Gillette razors. See when Olivia replaces Sam with Chris ‘the polar bear’ Hughes, a melt whose ice cold on the outside but warm on the inside?

Stick it on her

This refers to the islander’s term for persuading someone to have sex with them. By episode 3 Stacy Soloman’s lookalike Kem had been enjoying some minor success with Amber and as a result he decided to broadcast to the group his plans to ‘stick it on her’. Shockingly it doesn’t go to plan: When Kem then invites Amber to the outside bed area asking ‘shall I go get another duvet?’ she hits back with some #realness, telling him that 'Babe, I’m not staying here. The reason why me and Harley aren’t coupling up is because he was too pushy with me'. The only thing Kem was able to stick on her was an apology.

There’s something aggressive inherent in this phrase, it’s what I imagine prehistoric mating procedures to be like. The man gargling over and flopping his flaccid penis onto the woman as she signs an ‘okay then’. It’s also very phallic, the feminine version of the term would be something like ‘I’m gonna swallow him up tonight like a turbo-charged hoover’ which I would 100% love to see Camilla say but won't be holding my breath for.

Like this? You might also be interested in:

Half-Hearted: Love Island Is A Very Sun-Kissed Key To Modern Dating

Love Island Isn't A Guilty Pleasure, It's The Only Place On TV Where Anyone Is Honest About Dating

De-Crowning Miss Britain Is To Punish Her For Her Sexual Choices

Follow Annie on Twitter @annielord8

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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