What Does the Slang Word 'Shawty' Mean?

This term is typically used as a nickname

Shawty is a slang version of the word "shorty" and is typically used to refer to an attractive woman. The context in which it's used however, can determine its true meaning.

Interpreting the Use of Shawty

Phone with message that reads "hey Shawty!!"
Nusha Ashjaee / Lifewire

If you're the one being called "shawty," you might take it as a compliment or as an insult depending on your relationship to the person who used it, how it was used, and your personal feelings or beliefs about its use.

One individual might interpret it as female objectification while another might see it as nothing but a playful form of admiration. It all depends on the context and the people involved.

The Origin of Shawty

It's thought that the slang term originated in the city of Atlanta and at first was used for its association with the word "short" and its literal meaning—first appearing as "shorty" before morphing into shawty. Anyone considered to be short (such as children, women, and even men) could be called shorty.

Today, people (usually men) refer to women they think are attractive as "shawty" because women are typically shorter in height compared to men. It's become a popular slang term used frequently by recording artists in their own stage names, album names, and song lyrics.

Examples of How Shawty Is Used

The use of shawty may be accompanied by other slang terms to emphasize the style of language and tone of voice. Here are a few slanged up examples of how shawty might be used in a message with other slang terms.

  • "Whaddup shawty, how u doin?"
  • "Shawty a lil emotional but she still bad af"
  • "Been texting this shawty all night and she tryna play me like i don't already have a gf"

When You Should and Shouldn't Use Shawty

Shawty is a slang term that should be used appropriately with caution. As mentioned previously, it can either delight or offend others, so the key is to think before you type it and hit post or send.

Use Shawty When:

  • You're referring to someone you're currently texting/chatting with who you already know is fine with that kind of reference. If you're close enough to your partner, wife, or friend to call them nicknames that suggest your attraction to or admiration of them, then go ahead and refer to them as shawty. Those who know your good intentions are almost always flattered by it.
  • You're just casually referring to someone you've either never met, or have met but are not currently texting/chatting with. Maybe you saw an attractive person walking down the street or in a friend's Instagram photo that made you want to post or text about it. It's pretty harmless to refer to someone else as shawty without their knowledge of it (unless you're speaking ill of them or trying to spread rumors), so feel free to gush about that new crush you saw in real life or online. They likely won't even know, so there's probably no harm done.
  • You want to use the reference as a compliment. When referring to anyone as shawty, always do so with as much kindness and respect toward them as possible. Although ​the interpretation of the term is always subjective, your real intentions undoubtedly show through your message or text.

Don't Use Shawty When:

  • You're referring to an acquaintance or stranger who you're currently texting or chatting with. If you're texting or chatting with someone you don't know very well on a personal level, it's best to avoid calling them shawty, even if the conversation seems friendly or even a bit flirtatious. Get to know them personally first so you know they're warm and welcoming of your attraction to them.
  • You're having a polite, respectful, and/or professional conversation. Almost everyone can admit to finding a boss, a coworker, a teacher, or any other type of professional attractive. That doesn't mean it's appropriate to call them shawty when communicating with them. Respect and professionalism show through your ability to know your boundaries, stay on topic and maintain proper spelling and grammar, too.
  • You want to use the reference to offend others. Never use the term shawty in a purposefully derogatory way. While some people may find the term derogatory on its own regardless of context, it's certainly made much worse when you mean it to come off that way.