It’s actually a little complicated.
We live in a world of acronyms: of YOLO and STFU, of IDC and IMU, and of BRB and RU. (Which stand for — in order — you only live once, shut the F up, I don’t care, I miss you, be right back, and are you?)
But what does bae mean?
Well, in short, BAE stands for “before anyone else.”
But BAE isn’t just an acronym. In fact, according to Dictionary.com, the meaning of BAE — well, bae (all lowercase) — is “an affectionate term used to address or refer to one’s girlfriend, boyfriend, spouse, etc.”
For example, if you wanted to say, “I’m hanging out with my boyfriend,” or, “Hanging out with Jay,” you would simply say, “Hanging out with bae,” though it’s important to note that the phrase can also be used to describe something which is “very cool or great.”
That’s right — aside from being a term of endearment, bae can be used as an adjective. The term is most commonly used by millennials, specifically teens and young adults, many of whom use the word an alternative to babe or boo.
Where did bae come from?
Well, to be honest, its origins are unclear. In July 2014, popular singer-songwriter Pharrell Williams released a song called “Come Get It Bae.” In November 2014, a TIME article stated the term had been around since 2013. A Visual Thesaurus article, entitled “Bae Watch: The Ascent of a New Pet Name,” has put the origins of the phrase as early as 2005, when website Rap Genius states it began showing up in the music and, specifically, rap songs.
However, Know Your Meme places the term’s origins in 2003, as that is when the phrase first appeared on the site Urban Dictionary.
But in other countries, the term bae actually has other not-so-nice meanings.
While millennials use “bae” to describe someone they adore or love, the word means something completely different outside of North America.
In Danish, “bae” means, well… bae means poop, or is an onomatopoeic expression of disgust. In Icelandic, “bae” means “bye” and is considered disrespectful when used towards older people. In this sense, it could equate to not using the Spanish usted when addressing an elder.
Of course, the origins of the phrase do not matter as much as how it is used, and today the most common use of bae is probably “bae caught me slippin’” — a phrase which began in late 2012/early 2013.
At the time, the phrase was used to describe pictures of individuals who pretended to be asleep but obviously were not. (Don’t ask me, ask the meme Gods.)
But today, “bae” is almost always used in the place of someone’s name, though it can be used in a wide array of situations. Here are a few examples:
- I love you, bae.
- I can’t go out. Bae and I are going on a date.
- Melissa’s haircut is bae.
- I miss my bae.
- He/She is my bae. I can’t imagine life without him/her.
- What do you want to do tonight, bae?
- I’m sorry, bae. I didn’t mean to upset you.
- That outfit is bae.
- No one can replace bae.
- I’ll catch you later. I’m going to see bae.
That said, whether you like it or not — or understand it or not — doesn’t matter. It seems as though bae is here to stay.