Words can be truly dank

According to the Oxford Dictionary, the definition of dank is “unpleasantly moist.”

The word is thought to be of Scandinavian origin and then entered Middle English before evolving into the word we use today.

Dank maintained its meaning well into the rise of underground cannabis culture when the term “dank weed” began to describe high-quality marijuana. Also, Snoop Dog used the word dank in one of his songs to describe the smell of marijuana, according to CHS health teacher Mr. Strohecker.

The current and popular meaning of the word dank is funny and cool. To explore the roots of this word and how it is used by young people today, we interviewed teachers – including several of our English staff – and students and produced the video you can see here

While creating our video on how the word dank has evolved over time, something interesting happened: Many on our school’s staff were unwilling to answer questions about this simple four-letter word.

They told us they believed the word to be inappropriate. Some even refused to tell us why they wouldn’t be interviewed and just walked away from us. One staff member claimed the word’s association with a drug might lead him to be perceived negatively were he to discuss it. Overall, our impression was that these staff members seemed hesitant to discuss the word because of the meaning they associated with it, even though its current meaning is completely different. In short, they were afraid to discuss a word – a word that can be found in any dictionary in our building.  

On the other hand, all of the students we interviewed only knew one meaning of the word – “something funny or cool” – and none of them refused to participate. They all had different stories as to when they heard it for the first time, but all of the students could use it in a sentence describing something funny or cool. During the interviews with the students, we showed them the Oxford Dictionary and told them the other meanings of the word. Many were surprised that the word’s meaning has evolved over hundreds of years.  

During our interviews with the teachers who were comfortable responding to our questions, most of them knew two or more of the word’s definitions. Mrs. Stillwagon, a sophomore English teacher, told us she had heard her students use the word dank multiple times in her classroom, but she didn’t know what the word meant. Mr. Courtney, an English teacher, knew all three meanings and was able to use the word dank in a sentence with all of its different meanings. 

Overall, after researching how the word dank has had different meanings over time, we found that many different words can have different meanings and that all words, all language, changes as people and culture change. This project helped us broaden our knowledge on the meanings of words and the way they work.

It also showed us that people’s perceptions of words and their meanings can have a significant impact on their actions. Who knew that a word as simple as dank could be so dank?