RuPaul’s Drag Race launched in 2009 with 8 episodes, a very low-budget and no certainty of a second season. Fast forward to 2020 and it has become a ratings juggernaut franchise with a live Vegas show, many spin-offs, and 7 international editions in the works. For us long-time fans, it’s no surprise. The bar has always been set high and they have never compromised their standards. They always make sure the talented cast of queens are worthy of competing for a crown of its namesake, the flawless RuPaul. For newer fans, some of the terms used throughout episodes may be a little confusing. Like sickening and gagging, for example, are all good things. So, we’ve put together this guide of some of the most commonly used drag queen terminology to hopefully help with the learning curve.
A – B
Beat or Beating a Face | verb.
- The action of applying the perfect amount of makeup by repetitively dabbing a makeup sponge or brush against one’s face and creating a flawless, glamorous look
Bitch | noun.
- A term of endearment for a fierce woman and/or friend.
- Bitches is the plural form for a group of fierce women and/or friends.
- Other pronunciations include Byotch or Betch.
Body-ody-ody | noun.
- When a drag queen has a very impressive feminine figure and shows it off.
Booger | noun.
- A non-stereotypically pretty drag queen whose success tends to be attributed to her stage presence, as opposed to her appearance.
- A visually unattractive drag queen. A drag queen who looks “busted” or a “hot mess.” The term refers to a queen who cannot properly apply or wear makeup, style their hair, sew properly, or who wears unfashionable or ill-fitting clothing.
- The opposite of a “Heather”.
Boy Name | noun.
- A drag queen’s given name, as opposed to her drag/stage name.
Busted | adjective.
- Appearing to be unkempt, messy, unrefined or unpolished.
- The opposite of dusted.
Butch Queen | noun.
- A masculine-looking drag queen.
Bye Felicia! | expression.
- An expression used to dismiss or acknowledge the departure of a person that is annoying and whose presence is irrelevant.
- The term originated in the film Friday.
C – D
Campy | adjective.
- A type of traditional, over-the-top drag.
- Derivative from the French slang term se camper, meaning “to pose in an exaggerated fashion”.
Clock | verb.
- To spot flaws someone is trying to hide and to point out those flaws.
- To reveal truths.
Condragulations | phrase
- RuPaul’s way of saying “congratulations.”
Death Drop | verb.
- A dramatic dance move when one falls onto their back with one leg folded underneath,and the other extended straight out.
- Taken from the vogue dance scene.
- Also known as the shablam.
Drag Daughter | noun.
- A drag queen taken under the wing of a more experienced drag queen to learn the art of drag.
Drag Family | noun.
- A typical drag family includes a drag mother and drag daughters, who take her last name as an homage.
Drag King | noun
- Mainly female performer(s) who dress in masculine drag and personify male gender stereotypes as part of a performance or routine.
Drag Mother | noun.
- An experienced drag queen who acts as a mentor to a younger/less experienced/eager-to-learn drag queen to teach the art of drag.
Dust or Dusted | verb.
- If your look is dusted everything is working for you.
- The opposite of Busted.
Dusty | adjective.
- Unkempt or unclean. Typically characterized by wrinkled clothing, five-o-clock shadows, and a cheap wig.
E – F
Extravaganza Eleganza | noun.
- A runway category or look that exudes exceptionally high amounts of elegance.
Fierce! | adjective.
- A term used by drag queens in reference to a someone who emulates power, strength, beauty, intelligence, style, and heartfelt intensity.
Fishy | adjective and noun.
- A complimentary term used to describe a drag queen who looks extremely feminine or one who seems “real” in terms of their femininity.
- It is also possible to “serve fish”, meaning the queen is going for an extra girly look.
For the Gods | adverb.
- Play on the term “fit for the gods” meaning something that is done perfectly or flawlessly.
G – H
Gag | verb.
- When you are so impressed by something you are left speechless or in shock and have a physical reaction.
- May be used as an exclamation.
Gagarini | noun.
- To describe someone or something that is beyond the gag.
Garage Doors | noun.
- When a drag queen or woman sports a single shade of eye shadow on their eyelids.
Girl or Gurl | noun.
- Term of endearment.
- Also often used as an exclamatory remark.
Giving Me Life | phrase.
- A phrase used to express immense joy or pleasure with something.
- When you like something very much and it is everything.
Heather | noun.
- A woman or drag queen who is perfection, beautiful, and fierce.
- The term is in reference to the 1980’s film “Heathers.”
Hog Body | noun.
- When the waist of a queen that is not cinched and does not have the curvaceousness or defining female shape.
- Similar to the body of a hog.
Hunty | noun.
- A term of endearment amongst drag queens derived from combining the words ‘honey’ and the c-word.
- This is a personal favourite. You gotta love drag queen terminology :)
I – J
Judy | noun.
- A good friend.
- Also, a reference to the late great Judy Garland.
K – L
Ki Ki | noun.
- A term used for a get together of close friends for gossip, small talk, chatting, or a heart to heart.
Library Is Open | phrase.
- A phrase announcing that a queen is about to share some criticisms about (read) another.
M – N
Mama (Mamma / Momma / Mawma) | noun.
- A term of endearment and respect among drag queens.
- Normally (but not always) used to address an older or more experienced queen.
Meaty Tuck | noun.
- A poorly executed “tuck” which is bulgy or lumpy, instead of smooth and flat.
Mug | noun.
- A person’s face.
O – P
Padding | noun.
- Foam or sponge cushions placed on the hips, legs, and breasts to create the illusion of a woman’s figure/curves.
Paint | verb.
- To apply makeup to one’s face.
Pit crew | noun
- RuPaul’s team of obnoxiously handsome, topless crew that assist in challenges.
Q – R
Read | verb.
- To call out and criticize someone’s flaws and weaknesses (similar to roasting). The insults are often exaggerated and elaborated. They are an advanced format of the insult.
- On RuPauls’s Drag Race, the queens typically pick out a pair of sunglasses and read each other when the library is open, as a sort of witty freestyle insult battle/challenge.
Read for Filth | verb
- To unleash a ruthless onslaught of insults or criticisms to the fullest extent on someone.
- Similar to the term “Read the House Down.”
Read the House Down | verb
- Another term meaning to criticize or be criticized to the fullest extent.
- Similar to the term “Read for Filth.”
Realness | noun.
- The flawless execution of a particular look, impression or performance.
- It’s convincing realistic, authentic, and/or accurate.
- The act of being extremely blunt frank, or honest.
S – T
Sashay away | phrase
- RuPaul tells eliminated contestants to “sashay away”, in what is now one of the show’s most iconic catchphrases.
Serve | verb.
- To present oneself in a certain way.
Serving Fish | verb.
- The act of looking “fishy when the queen is going for an extra girly look..
Shantay, you stay | phrase
- The flip-side of “sashay away”, this is how Ru tells a queen who survived the lip sync that she is still in the competition.
Shade | noun and verb.
- Bluntly pointing out a person’s flaws or faults in a group setting or face-to-face, with the intention of insulting someone or to remind them of an embarrassing moment.
- A form of insult, but in an indirect manner.
- A subtler form of reading that casts aspersions.
- Variation Examples:
- Shady: Possessing a blunt and insulting manner. (Being Shady)
- Shady Bitch: A woman who is critical in a blunt or insulting manner.
- Throwing Shade: The act of criticism in a blunt and insulting manner.
Sickening | adjective.
- When someone looks so fabulous it makes you metaphorically nauseous.
- To be beyond awesome, incredibly amazing.
Sissy That Walk | verb.
- To walk with sass in a very feminine manner.
- Usually adapted when serving fish.
- Sissy That Walk is also the name of a single from RuPaul’s 2014 album Born Naked.
Slay | noun.
- To be on point, to win, to be outstanding, or to be the best.
- To achieve something spectacular.
Snatch Game | noun
- Now a fan favourite challenge each season, the Snatch Game sees the queens don their best celebrity impressions to play a parody of the ’70s game show The Match Game.
Squirrel Friend | noun
- A term of endearment used among drag queen friends.
- The squirrel reference is used as they are known to hide their nuts.
T (or Tea) | noun.
- Refers to hidden truths – either your own or someone else’s as in gossip.
- Variation Examples:
- What’s the T? or Spill the Tea means tell me what you know or how you truly feel about a hot topic. It could or could not be about the people involved in the conversation.
- All T, All Shade basically means you do not care if the statement is offensive or not.
- All T, No Shade means you’re being direct/upfront with the Truth, but you are coming from an honest place without the intention if insulting or offending anyone.
- No T, No Shade means when you are just giving your opinion or observations without the intention of insulting or offending anyone.
Tuck | noun and verb.
- The act of a drag queen pulling back their genitals to help create the female illusion.
- A “tuck” is normally held by panty hose, duct tape, and/or tight underwear
Tuckahoe | noun.
- A fictional drag queen town getting its name from a play on the words tuck and ho.
U – V – W
Werk or Work | verb.
- Putting in the effort and using your skills to perform/strut/walk the runway to the best of your ability to give the best performance possible.
- Exhibiting so much undeniable talent and owning your performance that no one can dare shade or read you.
X – Y – Z
Yaaasss | phrase.
- Pronounced YAAA-SSS-SSS.
- Play on the word “yes” and used as a term of encouragement, agreement or excitement.
Yaaasss Queen | phrase.
- Pronounced YAAA-SSS-SSS KwEEn
- Used to express enthusiastic support, excitement, or congratulations for something applause-worthy done by a someone fierce.
This is by no means a complete list of all drag queen terminology but it should help new fans. We will continue to update/expand this list so be sure to check back for additions.
What are your favourite terms? Do you have any additions we can make to our guide? Please share them with us in the comments.