Word Of The Week: ‘Fleek’


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. 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 used to describe something current or on point.  

This week, we are taking a look into 'fleek' and it’s place in the online community. Fleek is a word that, having risen to prominence in 2014, continues to dominate online channels of communication two years on. A simple Instagram search this afternoon revealed over a million hits for the tags ‘fleek’ and ‘onfleek’. Fleek is no flash in the pan, it’s here to stay. 

In last week’s edition, we considered the depths of Bae, and it’s wide reaching etymology. Fleek has no real source apart from a totally inoffensive Vine gone viral. It’s not good enough to end our analysis there – no, there are more powerful forces at hand here. So how did a word with no apparent source become so ubiquitous? 

Eyebrows. More precisely, the rocket fuelled rise of Cara Delevingne’s eyebrows. Perhaps we’ve just not found an apt adjective to describe them. On reflection, the only vaguely worthy adjective has been bushy. Really though? Bushy? It’s dry, it’s dull, it’s way too Basil Brush. How could superstar eyebrows get the recognition they deserve without a suitable adjective? 

Despite starting out almost exclusively as a reference to eyebrows, fleek has evolved, and can now be applied to most things, even arbitrary objects at times. Someone’s behaviour, their sense of humour, their cooking, it can all be ‘on fleek’. Isn’t that great? Fleek even rolls off the tongue. Sexy.  
If ‘on fleek’ can be applied at to all the things mentioned above, could a moody etymologist also be fleek? Perhaps geek fleek. 

Last night’s Oscars ceremony may have been overshadowed by the diversity row, but guess what? Alongside the usual gawping and critical analysis at different dresses on show, there had to be a certain focus on who had the most ‘on fleek’ eyebrows. Rita Ora was bang on form, sporting some stunning brows, while Lupita Nyong’o looked top notch. High brow indeed. Even DiCaprio had some bangin’ brows to go with much coveted Best Actor award. 

What was once chic is now very much fleek.