No, we are not talking about baseball caps. Here’s what this unusual term for internet language means and why you see it all over Tweets and lyrics.
On the web, “cap” means “a lie,” while “capping” means “lie.” It is one of the most popular slang terms of recent years, with widespread use on social networks, internet memes, and direct messages. It’s also a commonly used pop culture term, with many recent lyrics and dialogue on TV shows referring to “cap” and “capping.”
As common as “cap” is the slang expression “no cap,” which means being honest about something. You can use it to reassure others that you are nice, especially if they express doubts. For example, you can say to your friend, “I feel a lot better, no cap”, after you have recovered from an illness. No cap shares similarities with a few other common slang expressions, such as “keep it real.”
This slang term is unique in that it has many different variations, all of which are related but have different meanings. Here’s a summary of the different ways people can use the word:
- cap: A lie or something disputed.
- capping: Someone is deliberately lying.
- no cap: Swearing that you are honest or expressing that you mean something very seriously.
- That’s Cap: Catching someone lying or expressing disbelief in something.
- Stop covering: A request made to someone, asking them to stop lying.
The History of Covering
While the first use of “cap” as “lye” isn’t entirely clear, it’s significantly older than the internet. A video documentary by Genius, the music lyrics website, suggests that “cap” became popular through hip-hop music. They cite that the first instance of “capping” in lyrics comes from a 1985 EP by California rapper Too Short, with variations of the term appearing in rap songs over the next several decades.
Mentions of the phrase “no cap” in hip-hop songs increased dramatically in 2017 and 2018, coinciding with the rise of mainstream popularity. While the first entry for “cap” on Urban Dictionary dates back to 2011, the first entry for “no cap” is from much later in 2018. Eventually, the term and its variations gained popularity on social media platforms and internet memes.
As with many slang terms these days, people on the internet have found a way to make it even shorter – even if ‘cap’ itself is only three letters. On most devices, an emoji appears as a blue baseball cap, also known as the “billed cap” (🧢) emoji. In recent years, this emoji has become a symbolic representation of capping.
If you jump on a viral TikTok or Instagram post that appears to be full of lies, you may see people in the comments section spamming the “cap” emoji. One effect of this shift is that you rarely see these emoji referencing a hat; it almost always means dishonesty. You can also see this emoji in combination with ‘no’, as in ‘no cap’.
A common way to use cap as a slang term is to type the phrase “that’s cap.” People often say this when they catch someone lying or point out that a recent statement is a lie.
You can also say “that’s petty” when you express disbelief in something, even if you’re not sure it’s not true. So, for example, if someone tells you an incredulous story about how they managed it Elden Ring in 3 hours you could say “that’s cool” because you think it’s unbelievable.
While “you’re lying” and “that’s pet” are essentially synonyms, there are a few notable differences. Saying something is a hat cannot be accusatory and instead be used to lightly tease a friend. For example, if your friend is bragging about a fantastic achievement, you might say “that’s pet” as a joke.
How to use “cap”
Cap is somewhat impractical as a slang term. Besides being a synonym for “lying” in many parts of the internet, cap adds a certain flair to your posts. You might say “cap” when you’re making witty jokes with your friends or commenting on an Instagram post, but you probably won’t say it if you’re arguing with a family member.
Here are a few examples of “cap” and its variants in action. Notice how “cap” does something different in each of these sentences:
- “Stop hacking, dude!”
- ‘That’s a cap. There’s no way that’s happened.”
- “I’m going to buy that house someday, no cap.”
- “You’re cutting off. I was there yesterday.”
- “Cap. It’s written all over your face.”