Word Of The Week: ‘Bae’


Do you feel overwhelmed or intimidated by the rapid expansion of the English lexicon? You’re not alone. A lethal combination of celebrity culture and twitter has given rise to a host of new and at times seemingly unintelligible words. It would be churlish to exclusively lay the blame with celebrities and social media for the proliferation of this verbal phenomenon. There are deeper, darker, murkier avenues to explore as we attempt to find an explanation for this extraordinary evolution in the English language. As such, we shall be taking an in-depth look at one word each week, exploring its etymology, meaning and significance in pop culture and beyond. 
It’ll be just like learning your ABCs again. 

Welcome to Word of the Week.  

1. Slang. A term of affection for a partner or a lover.  

A relatively recent addition to modern parlance, ‘Bae’ has now become commonplace in Western society. 

The exact time and place that ‘Bae’ was first used remain misty, but its meteoric rise is largely due to celebrity adoption and endorsement. Featuring in lyrics by artists such as Pharrell Williams and Miley Cyrus, Bae was always destined for stardom. 

Not to be confused with yet another derivative of Beyoncé, ‘Bae’ has cemented its place on the palate of Western youth as a term of endearment or affection i.e. ‘Yo, that’s my bae’.

From an etymological point of view, it is widely assumed that Bae is a descendent of baby. It is important to note that the meaning of baby has itself evolved over time, taking on different meanings. As often as it is directed towards a newborn child, ‘baby’ is also used to refer to one’s proverbial other half. In this case, we are referring to the latter use. 

Baby is the source from which an extraordinary number of derivatives have flowed and ‘bae’ is just the latest in a long line. The conveyor belt in question includes ‘babe’, ‘babes’, ‘babez’, ‘bbz’ and more. It is clearly a word not to be underestimated, nor should we assume that ‘bae’ is the end of baby’s continuing evolution. 

The evolutionary line looks something like this: baby > babe > bae

So why did we give up baby in favour of bae? Is it that we are too lazy to pronounce two syllables rather than one? Or do we simply not have the time? Perhaps Bieber said baby one time too many and we just did away with the word entirely. 

Inevitably, the questions ‘why and how?’ arise when assessing and analyzing both the need and pertinence of bae in our language. To understand why would require a profound delving into the psyche of the 21st Century mind. Scanning the digital landscape, dotted with social media platforms, it becomes apparent that there is no time or space for words as we have traditionally known them. Words have been unceremoniously gobbled up and spat out in the form of tweets, re-tweets, pins, posts and hashtags, or been replaced entirely by images.