The Dating Glossary: Your Terminology Guide

It's not just ghosting and haunting you’ve got to contend with


by Ellie Wiseman |
Updated on

If you’ve ever been in the dating game you’ll probably have at least one disastrous tale to tell. The whole process can be exhausting and confusing: the constant ‘are we/aren’t we?’; the ‘I like them but I don’t know if they like me’; the ‘I don’t know what they want’…it goes on.

And with online dating apps seeming to be ever-prevailing, meeting a romantic partner in the traditional offline sense is becoming uncommon. Now though, there are terms to help you decipher those age old dating issues within a modern-day context (cue reading back through old texts to analyse what the subtext of that five-word text is).

So, without further ado, here are the terms to add to your dating dictionary…


You’ve probably heard of ‘ghosting’ – when someone you’re dating cuts all contact with you, often out of the blue. This may sound cowardly, but depending on circumstance (i.e. you met them once for coffee) it may be an easy way out of something that was not destined to work. Plus, if you met them through an app like Tinder, it's very easy to drop off their radar and not have a horrendous accidental bump-into in the elevator.


Breadcrumbing is the latest dating buzzword and many of us have fallen victim. It is when somebody aims to maintain your attention from afar by dropping 'crumbs' of affirmation in a sporadic fashion: a Like on an old Instagram post or a random text without much substance, but no real effort or commitment made. And, in most cases, the breadcrumber is dropping crumbs for a lot of people, not just you. We can't help but dislike this dating habit a lot (rolls eyes).


‘Benching’ is when someone you're dating doesn’t want to see you but still keeps in contact. Jason Chen coined the term and describes it as a ‘texting limbo’. He says the warning signs to look out for include minimal effort, lazy texting, and plans falling through last minute. In other words, you are their plan B; they may like you and don’t want to cut you off, but they’re keeping their options open. It’s the typical case of, ‘they’re just not that into you’.

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Slow Fade

The ‘slow fade’ is when someone gradually cuts you off. They may start to interact with you less and less and stop making effort, so that eventually you are no longer in contact. Not great, but a little bit less brutal than ‘ghosting’? Maybe not.


‘Tuning’ can often be hard to recognise and can be mistaken for ‘benching’. However, the intent is very different; in this case the person does want the relationship to progress but they aren't upfront about it. So, if someone likes all of your Instagram photos, sends you Snapchats of their dog, and use emojis in their sweet-but-vague texts, they may be flirting but are afraid to give too much of themselves in case things between you don’t materialise.

‘Tuning’ can be frustrating and prolonged, but usually the person is doing the groundwork before asking you on a date (or is after a booty call).


‘Haunting’ is something that makes our eyes roll – when the person who once ‘ghosted’ you returns to your cyber sphere in a lurking sort of way. It’s the classic unexpected ‘hello stranger’ effect, but through social media – they’ll like your post on Facebook or are always the first to view your Snapchat story. Just like the cowardly art of ‘ghosting’, when someone is ‘haunting’ you they don’t get in touch with you directly.


DTR is an acronym for ‘define the relationship’. You may have been dating someone for a while and it's now time for that chat to determine what you are and where the relationship is headed.

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Ah, the fuckboy. It’s a boy vs (gentle)man situation; they may be ‘nice’ to girls but don’t actually treat them right at all. These womanisers may not have actual girlfriends but their actions still cause heartbreak.

Catch And Release

This describes someone who loves to chase, but when they’ve ‘caught’ a person they let them go with ‘ghosting’ intent.


When people are dating but describe it as ‘talking’ they are commitment-phobes who want to keep it casual. This is great if it is mutual, but otherwise it can be rather frustrating.


This is when the person doing the ‘tuning’ is in a relationship. They may want to get out of the current situation they’re in, but they aren't ready to. So, in the meantime they ‘tune’ other people as a sort of insurance to gain affirmation and interest in case they were to exit their current relationship. Hence, they put you in the ‘layby’. Not exactly cheating per se, but definitely dodgy.


Zombieing is the latest term you need to add to your dating dictionary. Essentially, it is when your ex 'comes back from the dead' and pops back into your life after a spell of acting like a stranger - something that pretty much all of us can testify to happening with every ex partner, in one way or another.

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Want to know more? The UK-based dating app TourBar translates the digital language of love, aiming to make the process of online dating as smooth as possible (and ensure you're not being catfished). We're all ears.

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