Love Island, the British reality show which hits American airwaves Tuesday night on CBS, is perhaps the perfect reality show. Pulling in elements of Big Brother, Are You the One?, and Bachelor in Paradise to create a show about a group of strangers who are sequestered in a Spanish villa and forced to couple up and then earn the affection of a voting public, Love Island is both a stunning spectacle, a mind-bending powder keg, and a savage social experiment (that yes, comes with ample baggage). More kindly, it is also a testament to the idea that relationships are better fostered with straightforward honesty and nonstop communication, as the Islanders’ proximity forces them to confront their issues with each other head-on.
But above all, Love Island is an eye-opening look at a culture. I’m not talking about the culture of British people—we’ve all already seen enough Hugh Grant movies; no, I’m talking about the culture of Love Islanders. The Islanders are a very specific group of people, with very specific traits (mostly: hot, extremely ripped, dangerously tan), very specific modes of behavior, and above all, a very specific language. Diving into Love Island is a bewildering experience; only with repeated viewings do you start to understand the Islanders’ language. And knowing British slang is not enough, for the words and phrases used by the Islanders have specific meanings within the context of the show.
But because I’ve completed many viewings of Love Island, I now feel confident I can explain the Islanders’ language. It’s important to note that while watching the U.S. version of Love Island, you’ll likely not hear most, if any, of these terms—surely, the American Islanders will construct their own lexicon—but the following dictionary will still be helpful as a guide to the show, and how it works. And at the very least, after reading it you’ll be able to yell “muggy!” at the TV, which is really the whole point.
[Editor’s note: Spoilers for Love Island U.K. below.]
As per (phrase) — A shortened version of “as per usual,” often used with a hint of sarcasm to signify the predictability of someone’s actions.
Banter (n.) — One of the most sought-after entities on Love Island, “banter” is the existence of high-level rapport between two people. One can also possess “banter” on their own, a conversational skill that separates the more successful Love Island contestants from the rest.
Bantering (ger.) — The act of teasing or kidding (used in a sentence: “Are you bantering me?”). Whereas “banter” is a positive thing, “bantering” often carries a negative connotation.
Bellend (n.) — The, uh, tip of a penis; a derogatory word most famously used by a salty-ass Jonny on Season 3 of Love Island:
(Judging by everyone’s faces—and the fact this is the closest anyone has come to physically fighting on the show—it is clear that “bellend” is the worst word in the Love Island lexicon.)
Blazin’ Squad (n.) — An early 2000s British pop/hip-hop group (like if Bone Thugs were English teenagers), most known for their song “Crossroads.” Blazin’ Squad is important in the context of Love Island because former squad member Marcel Somerville appeared on Season 3, in which he “very” “casually” told contestants, one by one, that, “I used to be in Blazin’ Squad, innit?”
Can’t be arsed (phrase) — A state of uncaring (the American analog here is “couldn’t care less;” though it should be noted that when Islanders say they “can’t be arsed,” the truth is that, in fact, they could very much be arsed).
Chat (n.) — See: banter.
Crack on (v.) — To engage in romantic activities—sexual or otherwise—with another person.
Cringe (adj.) — Used to describe the peak awkwardness of a person or situation—or, in much rosier circumstances, the unbearably adorable romance of a situation or person’s actions.
Day dot (n.) — A point in time as far back as one can remember; in the context of Love Island, an arbitrary point in time as far back as six weeks ago, or as recent as one hour ago. People who say “day dot” are usually untrustworthy liars attempting to reinforce a statement they just pulled out of their ass.
Dead (adv.) — A word used to add emphasis, such as, “That man is dead fit.” (See below for the definition of “fit.”)
Deffo (adv.) — A shortening of the word “definitely.”
Dicksand (n.) — A term invented and used solely by Olivia in Season 3 (truly, it is the “fetch” of Love Island), it is a play on the word “quicksand” describing a man who is unfit for relationships, yet attractive enough to find partners; the following may be a symptom of dicksand:
DMC (n.) — An abbreviation for Deep Meaningful Conversation, often necessary on Love Island whenever one feels insecure, in love, or has fallen into dicksand.
Doghead (n.) — A derogatory word for an ugly person, used most famously by Hannah in her Season 1 introduction:
Early days (phrase) — An expression used to assert that a romantic endeavor has only just begun. Love Island contestants—primarily the male ones—who get in way too deep with a partner love to say (read: lie) that they are not in too deep because “it’s early days.”
End of the day (phrase) — An expression signaling that the declarative statement that follows will be a total summation of the matter at hand. This phrase isn’t exactly exclusive to Love Island, but please note that it is used CONSTANTLY.
Fit (adj.) — Good-looking, in ways beyond physical fitness.
Friend Island (n.) — Specifically, what Love Island is not.
(A note to viewers of The Bachelor: This phrase is Love Island’s version of “not here to make friends.”)
Geezer (n.) — A term of endearment used to refer to a male friend; can also be shortened as “geez.”
Get the hump (phrase) — To become annoyed, perhaps unreasonably so, about one’s current state of affairs.
Graft (v.) — A more aggressive act of flirting that, by definition, includes selling one’s qualities as a romantic partner. Grafting is an all-important step in the mating rituals of Love Island, without which one cannot survive.
Gutted (adj.) — To be emotionally devastated; in Love Island parlance, those who are gutted traditionally add the adverb “absolutely” to accentuate the extent to which they have been gutted.
Melt (n.) — Someone who is veritably soft, in a way that brings disrepute to their character. (Love Island is a safe space for emotional expression—within reason.)
Minging (adj.) — Unpleasant, foul, generally unwanted.
Mint (adj.) — As in “mint condition,” a term used to describe a person, place, or thing’s superb superficial appearance.
Muggy (adj.) — Any action that could be characterized as disrespectful, disloyal, or disingenuous. To be called “muggy” on Love Island is to be labeled with a scarlet letter. (Despite the severity of the term, it is one of the show’s most used.)
Mug off (v.) — Adapting “muggy” into an active verb, to mug someone off is to treat them with disrespect; in the context of Love Island, one almost always does this by choosing a new mate with little regard for their former one. As an act, it is deeply frowned upon.
Oh my days (phrase) — In a moment of exasperation, a much more fun, much more charming way to basically say “Oh my god.”
Recouple (v.) — A formal process in which Love Island contestants choose their mates; it’s helpful to think of the process as “coupling again,” since most recoupling ceremonies are opportunities for solid, happy couples to restate their love for one another. On rare, extra-spicy occasions, though, someone will stir the pot by recoupling with a person who is in a well-established couple—after which the aggressor will be called a “bellend” (see above).
Pie off (v.) — In the simplest terms, “to dump.” On the scale of actions one can take on Love Island, the consequences of pie-ing off are more long-lasting than mugging off.
Prang (adj.) — Anxious or irritable; this term is most prominently used by Niall at the onset of Season 4.
Punching (v.) — A shortened version of “punching up,” it is the act of dating out of one’s league. Chris of Season 3 frequently proclaimed to be “punching” in his relationship with Olivia—but Chris is now dating a member of Little Mix, so who was really the one punching?
Slag (n.) — A disgraceful, derogatory term akin to “slut.” The Love Island villa is a place of acceptance, forward thinking, and sexual freedom, and thus, slag is one of the worst words one can utter while on the show. (Season 2’s Tom, also known as “the worst,” was one such offender.)
Tuna melt (n.) — The most heightened version of a melt (see above), designated for only the softest of the soft.
Why tuna? Such profound questions have no answer, though it is worth noting that “ham and cheese melt” has been deployed as an insult on Love Island too, primarily by Season 3’s Kem:
There is no set melt hierarchy, but as far as I can tell, “tuna melt” is a much more devastating kind of melt than “ham and cheese melt.”