The Complete Tinder Glossary

by Amanda Lewis

As a rule, I don’t download time-sucking games onto my phone. Tinder is the exception. Back in May, when I first made space on my screen for that little red flame icon, I didn’t realize the latest online dating app craze was a game. But now I know. Last night my roommate, who met his boyfriend on Tinder, perched beside me for some vicarious swiping. “I miss this!” he said, as we watched the weirdos fly by.

That’s right: they’ve finally made an online dating service that is fun — nay, addictive — to use.

Like Zuckerberg’s original, verboten pleasure, FaceSmash, which asked Harvard douchebags to choose the hotter classmate between two photos, Tinder offers players a simple, visceral choice. Do you want to hook up with the person in this photograph: YES or NO. As a result, Tindering feels a little bit like this: NO NO NO NO NO YES NO YES NO NO YES NO NO NO NO NO NO NO YES NO YES YES NO. And on and on.

The design is simple but the strategy is not. I know how much you marrieds want to know WHAT IT’S LIKE OUT THERE, so let me share the fruits of my obsession. Here’s how it works.



To delete a match, preventing him from seeing your profile or sending you any more messages about wanting you to sit on his face.

Calling card

A player’s all-important first photo. The wrong one will be immediately left-swiped. The right one will prompt other players to click through to see your tagline and up to four other photos.

Delayed match

To receive a push notification at an unexpected moment saying you’ve matched with someone many hours or days after your initial right-swipe. If a delayed match occurs during the day, a player will often worry that the new match is unemployed. If a delayed match occurs at night, a player will often worry that the new match is blackout drunk.

Instant match

To match with someone as soon as you right-swipe, meaning that player had already right-swiped you.


To reject someone, causing his photo to sail off into the irretrievable ether, never to be seen again.

Match list

All of the cuties you’ve matched with since joining Tinder. Can be scrolled through during dark times for reassurance that some players out there do appreciate your ability to power-clash.

Mutually assured attraction

The guarantee that any person you talk to has already right-swiped you, giving each interaction a flirtatious edge, especially when compared to the desperate messaging on OKCupid, the previous reigning online-dating option for the young and the broke.


Anyone who plays Tinder.


To “like” someone, causing her photo to sail off into the irretrievable ether, only to be seen again if she likes you back.


The open-ended area for text below a player’s photos. There is no character limit.

Tinder out

To Tinder for so long that you slowly lose your sense that a world exists outside your screen. Players have been known to look up and find hours passed, bus stops missed, bills unpaid and pets dead.


20th century fossils

Players who suggest lying about “where we met” in their taglines.

Acceleration error

A mistaken left-swipe that occurs because the player is Tindering out at top speed and has lost focus. Often associated with persistent delusions that the erroneously rejected player would have been an ideal spouse. (Accidental right-swipes are easily rectified. See block)

Background check

When you text your mutual Facebook friend Jenny a screenshot of a player’s calling card and she admits she’s heard he really likes to pee in girls’ mouths.

Bad joke consequence, the

Because Tinder inputs information from Facebook, any player who once ironically claimed to be born in 1925 (even more hilarious than “marrying” your best friend!) now finds that age irrevocably attached to her Tinder profile. A surprising number of players identify their correct ages in their taglines.

Child repulsion principle

Most players reflexively swipe left at the sight of a toddler or baby, especially in a calling card. Few will click through to see your tagline explanation that the kid is your niece.

Den of Tinder

A party that turns silent, with everyone staring deeply into his phone, because one person suggested uninitiated singles join Tinder.

Downside of flight-or-fight, the

When the instinctive and instantaneous left-swiping of your ex regrettably prevents you from seeing what her stupid tagline says or which stupid photos she chose to show off her stupid new haircut. (You would think the algorithm would know not to show you a player with whom you have previously been in a Facebook relationship. You would be wrong.)

Expired match in the back of the fridge, the

That slick dude in the suit that you matched with months ago but never ended up messaging. Too much time has passed for starting a conversation now to seem natural, but you keep him on your match list to track how he alters his profile to emphasize his finance job and minimize his greasiness.

Finger error

A mistaken swipe that occurs because you have fat thumbs and no hand-eye coordination.

Flake-out, the

When two players agree on a date, time and location for a drink or a meal IRL but then someone ignores a confirmation text or both parties simply forget to follow up and the date passes and nothing happens. Occurs more frequently on Tinder than on other sites, frustrating older users who are not accustomed to the millennial habit of making multiple plans and choosing the best option at the last minute.

“Grindr for straights” claim, the

False, false, false. First of all, reports of Grindr being only for no-strings-attached sex are overblown. Descriptions of Tinder as same are even more exaggerated. Meeting on Tinder does not make a couple any more likely to have sex on the first date than meeting on OKCupid or meeting at a Starbucks. Why does the press always conflate convenience and promiscuity? See also limerence defense mechanism and mutually assured attraction.


To reject an otherwise normal person because your mutual Facebook friend, that guy Brad who works with your brother, is too loud and wears cartoon-character ties.

High ROI guarantee, the

The more time you spend on Tinder, the more matches you’ll get, the more dates you can arrange, the higher the chances you’ll find someone else in the world who gives a shit about you. Or at the very least wants to bone.

Horizontal hallucination

When Tinder’s buggy code causes that wrinkled lady in the purple fedora you left-swiped a few minutes earlier to slide sideways across your screen and then vanish.

Indiscriminate narcissists

Players who employ the legitimate but obnoxious strategy of right-swiping every single person and then blocking the matches they dislike.

Indiscriminate narcissists, despair brought on by

The surge of hopelessness and anger that comes when a new match disappears within seconds.


A player who provides an Instagram username in his tagline but keeps his account private.

‘Less is more’ principle, the

You may think all Tinder users are superficial, screened-out hipster millennials, but reducing an online dating profile to five photos, a short snippet of text, and mutual Facebook friends and interests helps a player make quick, open-minded decisions. Serial online daters scour profiles for irrelevant nitpicky details, but who cares whether she thinks nuclear war might be exciting in a certain light? Most online dating sites connect people who have interests or beliefs in common, but UCLA’s Relationship Institute has found little correlation between similarities and forming a romantic connection, although couples will identify and emphasize shared traits and passions after getting together. Plus, it’s not like we’re talking about passport photos here. Setting tells a story.

Limerence defense mechanism

Tinder upends the traditional user experience of most social media and online dating sites, where you browse a static museum of images and can linger on crushes without consequence. By keeping the profiles of non-matches inaccessible, the app prevents players from projecting their hopes and desires onto hotties who could care less. This, more than anything else, makes Tinder more fun than stressful.

Misdirection, effective

Using a photograph of yourself with an adorable Labrador retriever as your calling card.

Misdirection, ineffective

Using a photograph of yourself with Dr. Dre or Adam Sandler as your calling card.

Opening gambit

A line or stratagem used by a player to initiate contact. Can be customized but often is copy-pasted and sent out en masse. For example: “Well hi,” “Hey there,” “‹bouquet of flowers emoji›” etc.

Outward/inward disgust sequence, the

The initial horror that comes after you accidentally right-swipe a Geraldo-quality selfie, followed a week later by a new nadir of self-esteem when you realize the creeper must have rejected you, as you never matched.

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain rule, the

95% of players who choose a calling card that does not include a clear shot of their face are unattractive.

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain rule, exceptions to the

A small subset of extremely attractive people, presumably fed up with the shallowness of the rest of us, choose misleading photos of pandas, baseball games, sunsets or Darth Vader as their calling cards. Only the most devoted of players will click through to find these pots of gold.

Pivot, the

When Tinder’s crappy messaging technology jams up and you use it as an excuse to give that Rihanna lookalike your phone number and continue the conversation over text.

Proof of prior use

When a player includes multiple photographs with an ex to illustrate the type of match she is looking for or to prove his ability to commit. This strategy often backfires by making potential matches feel jealous or concerned the player might not be over the ex.

Rock bottom

The screen announcing that there is no one new in your area, which pops up when a player has flipped through every single potential match in her age range and location radius. Often accompanied by heart palpitations, sweating, nausea, and other symptoms of withdrawal.

Tagline logorrhea

When players who otherwise seem attractive write thousand-word tagline essays about their life philosophy of loving and living and laughing.


The fear that every person you see on the street, in the drugstore and at the bar is someone who has rejected you on Tinder.

Tinder memes

Places or objects that show up again and again in Tinder photos, such as tigers, Machu Picchu, Coachella and cartoon mustaches. Extended exposure may prompt a player to recognize that no one is a special flower.

Tinder promotion

Semi-famous television stars and obscure snowboarding companies sometimes use Tinder to advertise. So just to clear things up, Lamorne Morris (Winston from “New Girl”) doesn’t actually want to date you.


That bespectacled lawyer guy who chats you up all day but tells you to find him on OKCupid when you suggest drinks because he “trusts that site more.”

Thursday flurry, the

The burst of Tinder activity that takes place when the average player realizes he has no weekend plans, or at least no late-night weekend plans, or perhaps simply not enough late-night weekend plan options.

Weakness in numbers

When a player cannot accurately evaluate the hotness of another player because every single one of her photographs is of her entire group of friends.

Amanda Lewis’ Tinder calling card is as twee as can be: a photo of her running joyously through a field. She mostly writes for LA Weekly

and tweets @msamandalewis.