USMC Slang: 164 Marine Corps Terms
After nearly 250 years of history, the US Marine Corps has developed a language of its own. This article covers the top Marine slang, terms, and acronyms. If we’re missing something, please let us know in the comments.
The Big Four
If you’re going to know any US Marine Corps terms, this group of four is the place to start.
Devil Dog is a classic nickname for U.S. Marines. The term originated during World War I at the Battle of Belleau Wood, where German soldiers referred to Marines as “Teufel Hunden” (Devil Dogs) due to their fierce fighting spirit.
The U.S. Marine Corps has since embraced the nickname as a symbol of tenacity, courage, and relentless determination in battle.
The motto of the United States Marine Corps is “Semper Fidelis,” often shortened to “Semper Fi.” This Latin phrase, meaning “always faithful” or “always loyal,” has been in use since Roman times.
In 1883, Colonel Charles Grymes McCawley selected “Semper Fidelis” as the official Marine Corps motto.
Semper Fidelis represents the allegiance Marines have for ‘Corps and Country’ even after service.
Leatherneck is a slang term used to refer to a U.S. Marine, and it carries a significant historical background.
The initial official order for the United States Marine Corps uniform was issued in March 1804. As part of the uniform, Marine officers were instructed to wear black leather collars while on duty. Since 1775, Marines had been wearing leather stocks around their necks to protect against blade slashes, and they continued to do so until 1881.
The term Leatherneck became ingrained in the Marine Corps’ history and remains a lasting symbol associated with U.S. Marines.
“Oorah” is a motivational battle cry and expression of enthusiasm frequently used by Marines. It is commonly shouted, chanted, or exchanged as a greeting to demonstrate solidarity.
This renowned term within the Marine Corps was first introduced by the 1st Amphibious Reconnaissance Company in 1953. It originated from the sound of a diving horn, “Ahuga,” and eventually transformed into “oorah.” The versatile slang gained popularity among Marine drill sergeants and quickly spread throughout the Marine Corps.
Terms for the Marine Corps
The US Marine Corps is occasionally referred to as the “Green Machine.”
Terms for Marines
From “Jarhead” to “Brown Bagger,” the Marine Corps has a rich collection of terms that define and characterize its members in various ways.
“Jarhead” is a colloquial term used to refer to a U.S. Marine, sometimes employed in a lighthearted or self-deprecating manner.
A “boot” is a term used in the Marine Corps to describe a newly enlisted Marine or someone who is inexperienced or naive.
“Grunt” is a term employed in the Marine Corps to specifically designate infantry Marines, who typically serve on the front lines and engage in direct combat. While “grunt” was once considered derogatory, it is now regarded as a neutral term within the Marine Corps.
“Ground pounder” is an alternate term for “grunt,” used to describe an infantryman or an individual serving in a combat arms role, emphasizing their ground-based responsibilities.
“Cannon Cocker” is a U.S. Marine Corps term specifically referring to artillerymen, highlighting their role in operating cannons and artillery.
“Brass” is slang used to denote officers within the Marine Corps. The term derives from the fact that officers’ rank insignia and buttons are typically made of brass.
“Hollywood Marine” is a derogatory term used by fellow Marines to refer to graduates of the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, implying that they prioritize appearance and superficiality.
“CG” is an acronym used in the Marine Corps to represent “Commanding General,” referring to the senior officer in command of a specific unit or command.
“POG” is an acronym standing for “Personnel Other than Grunts,” used to categorize Marines in non-combat roles, distinguishing them from infantry personnel.
“Gunny” is a shortened form of “Gunnery Sergeant,” a rank within the Marine Corps. It is often used to refer to a senior enlisted Marine.
“Butter Bar” is derogatory Marine Corps slang targeting a second lieutenant, referencing the gold-colored rank insignia worn on their collar, which resembles a stick of butter.
“Blue Falcon” is slang used to describe someone within the Marine Corps who betrays or undermines their fellow Marines. The term is derived from the initials “BF,” representing “Buddy F***er.”
“FNG” is a codeword that stands for “F***ing New Guy.” It is used to describe a newly arrived Marine.
“Silently judging” refers to the discreet act of assessing and evaluating someone’s actions or performance, often carried out by more experienced Marines towards their less experienced counterparts.
“Poolee” is a term used to refer to an individual who has enlisted in the Marine Corps but has not yet departed for boot camp.
“Gung ho” is a term originating from a Chinese phrase meaning “to work in harmony.” It was popularized by U.S. Marine Corps Major Evans Carlson, who commanded the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion during World War II. The phrase subsequently spread throughout the Marine Corps and the general public.
Hard Charger, Hard
“Hard charger” is a term used to describe a Marine who excels in completing difficult tasks or demonstrates exceptional toughness.
“Moto” is a shortened form of “motivated” or “motivation.” It is used to describe Marines who exhibit high levels of enthusiasm and motivation toward their service.
“Short-timer” refers to a Marine who is approaching the end of their active duty service or deployment.
A “house mouse” is a term used to describe a Marine recruit assigned the responsibility of cleaning drill instructor-only areas, such as DI huts.
“Green side” refers to Marine Corps personnel who are assigned to the United States Navy or Navy medical units, distinguished by their green uniforms instead of the traditional Marine Corps camouflage (cammies).
“Geardo” is slang used to describe a Marine who excessively seeks or collects military gear and equipment, often with little practical use.
“Devil Pups” refers to young boys and girls who participate in the Devil Pups Youth Program, which introduces them to Marine Corps values and discipline.
Brain housing group
“Brain housing group” is a lighthearted term used to refer to a Marine’s head or mind.
“NOF” is a Marine codeword for “Non-Operating Fuck,” used to describe someone who is ineffective or incompetent at operating equipment or vehicles.
The USMC has a diverse vocabulary that captures the intensity, challenges, and unique experiences of combat operations.
“Deployment” is a military term used to describe the process of moving personnel from a permanent station to a ship or an overseas location.
“Float Phase” is a Marine Corps expression that pertains to the ocean deployment of Marines.
“FMF” is an acronym that stands for “Fleet Marine Force,” representing the operational force of the U.S. Marine Corps, as distinguished from support or reserve units.
“AO” is a USMC acronym that stands for “Area of Operations,” referring to a specific designated area where military operations are conducted.
“CP” is a military acronym for “command post,” which serves as a central location for command and control operations.
“Advance Party” is a term used to describe a small unit of US Marines deployed in advance of a larger majority of the battalion or unit.
“Soup sandwich” is a phrase used to describe something or someone that is in disarray or a complete mess.
In the shit
“In the shit” is an expression that refers to being in a dangerous or intense combat situation.
Fire in the Hole
“Fire in the Hole” is an old-school phrase used as a warning before the detonation of explosives.
“Incoming!” is a phrase used as a warning of hostile fire.
“Pop smoke” refers to the act of throwing a smoke grenade to mark a location, often used for signaling or to request extraction.
“KIA” is a military acronym standing for “killed in action.”
“SITREP” is Marine Corps jargon for “Situation Report,” which provides a concise update on the current situation or status of operations.
“By-the-Numbers” is a Marine Corps phrase indicating the action of doing things in sequence or following a specific order.
“Bivouac” is a term describing a temporary outdoor camp or shelter, sometimes referred to as a “bivvy.”
“Hooch” is a term used to denote any type of shelter or residence.
“FAC” is an acronym for “Forward Air Controller,” typically a pilot who assists in coordinating ground and aviation units.
“Fast movers” refers to aircraft, particularly fast jets that provide close air support or conduct airstrikes.
“Bird” is a term used to refer to an aircraft.
“LZ” is an abbreviation for “Landing Zone,” which designates a clearing used for helicopter landings.
“BDA” is an acronym for “Bomb Damage Assessment,” which is conducted by pilots after ground support missions.
“BLT” stands for “Battalion Landing Team,” an infantry battalion that conducts amphibious or helicopter landings from a ship.
“Bow” refers to the front of a ship.
“Head” is a term used for a bathroom, derived from maritime terminology when bathrooms were located at the head or bow of sailing ships.
“Deck” is a Marine Corps term used to denote a floor.
“Hatch” is a maritime term meaning a door and is commonly used in the Marine Corps.
“AMTRACK” is a Marine Corps acronym for “amphibious tractor,” also known as a landing craft.
“Bulkhead” is a term for a wall derived from US Marine Corps operations on naval vessels, referring to walls on amphibious assault ships, aircraft carriers, and other naval vessels.
“Blue-on-blue” refers to friendly fire incidents when Marines accidentally engage or fire upon their own forces.
Blue on green
“Blue on green” refers to insider attacks, incidents where an Afghan or foreign military member turns their weapon against coalition forces.
Nut to butt
“Nut to butt” refers to a formation in which Marines stand closely together in a tight line or formation, leaving no space between individuals.
To “belay” means to secure a line.
“Bravo Zulu” is a phonetic alphabet abbreviation used to commend someone for a job well done.
“Broke Dick” is a term used to describe a low-performing Marine or an underwhelming or faulty piece of equipment.
“Hooah” is a Marine Corps expression borrowed from the Army, sometimes used by Marines as a general expression of agreement or understanding.
“Actual” is radio lingo used to refer to the unit commander.
“Jibs” is a term for front teeth.
“Camel spider” is a nickname for solifugae, a large arachnid species found in arid regions. It is often used to tease Marines about encountering scary creatures during deployments.
Below are some of the most widely used commands encountered in the Marine Corps.
Lock and Load
“Lock and load” means to arm weapons and prepare to engage, typically used as a command.
As You Were, Carry On
“As you were” and “carry on” are phrases that mean to resume former activities, often used to cancel or disregard a previous order or command.
“Aye-aye” is a phrase used by Marines to acknowledge and agree to orders.
“Stand by” is a command to be prepared but wait.
Gang Way, Gangway
“Gang way” is a command used to instruct individuals to move aside, particularly issued by seniors to juniors in passageways or on ladders. It is also a maritime term used by Marines to refer to a ship’s passageway or access point.
Make a Hole
“Make a hole” is a command to stand back, similar to “gang way.”
“Belay that” means to disregard a previous order or command.
Time / Distance
The US Marine Corps employs distinct military expressions for time and distance. Check out a few of the most widely used below.
O-dark thirty, Zero dark thirty, Zero dark thirty
“O-dark thirty,” “Zero dark thirty,” and “Zero dark thirty” are terms used to refer to the early morning hours before dawn, often indicating an early start time for a mission or training.
In military time, midnight is referred to as “zero hundred” or “2400 hours.” The term “Balls” is sometimes colloquially used to describe this time, stemming from the visual resemblance of four zeroes to two pairs of testicles.
Hurry Up and Wait
“Hurry up and wait” characterizes the military’s paradoxical cycle of rushing units into action prematurely, only to leave them idle and waiting for further instructions, exemplifying inefficient time management and planning.
“Klick” is military slang for a kilometer.
The Marine Corps has its own terminology for the equipment it uses.
“Gizmo” is a term used to describe a gadget or piece of equipment whose specific name or designation may not be known or important.
“Gear” is a common Marine slang term for an individual’s equipment or property, especially combat gear.
“Gear adrift” is a military phrase used to describe gear that has been left unguarded. The saying “gear adrift, must be a gift!” suggests that if someone fails to properly secure or take care of their personal items, they may unintentionally give up ownership, allowing others to claim the item.
High Speed, Low Drag
“High speed, low drag,” or simply “high speed,” is a sarcastic phrase used to describe something new, cool, and sleek, but with dubious performance.
“Ka-Bar” is the contemporary popular name for the combat knife first adopted by the United States Marine Corps in November 1942.
“Field strip” is a military term used to describe the process of disassembling or taking apart a firearm, often for maintenance or cleaning purposes.
“Diddy bag” is a naval term for a bag with a drawstring used to hold personal or small items. The term has also been adopted by Marines.
The Marine Corps uses a number of terms for military training. Below are a few of the most commonly used.
“Boot camp” is the training hub for new Marines. There are two locations: Marine Corps Recruit Depot in Parris Island, South Carolina, and Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, California.
In combat training, “dry fire” refers to the practice of simulating the firing of a weapon without live ammunition.
“Dry run” refers to a practice run or rehearsal, often used to prepare for an operation or event.
“MCT” stands for Marine Combat Training, where infantry skills are taught to non-infantry Marines.
The Marine Corps is rich in terminology regarding physical training. Below are some of the most common terms.
“PT” is an acronym for physical training, referring to exercise and fitness activities conducted by Marines.
“Smoke session” refers to an intense physical training session or disciplinary action that involves challenging exercises or tasks.
Front Leaning Rest Position
“Front Leaning Rest Position,” also known as “the position,” is a tongue-in-cheek phrase used to refer to the pushup position.
Hydrate or die
“Hydrate or die” is a reminder to Marines to drink enough water and stay properly hydrated, especially in hot and demanding environments.
“Moto run” is a term for a motivational run or physical training session that emphasizes teamwork and esprit de corps.
In the USMC, “go fasters” is slang for running shoes or sneakers, which help you run faster than boots.
“Double Time” is a command to move quickly, often used during marches or runs.
“Hump” is Marine Corps lingo for carrying a load of equipment or participating in a fully-loaded forced march.
Here’s a list of terms a Marine might use while not on deployment or on-base.
Eighth & I
“Eighth & I” refers to the location of the historic Marine Barracks Washington, D.C., located at the intersection of 8th Street and I Street SE in Washington, D.C.
Marine Barracks Washington, often referred to as “Eighth & I,” is the oldest active post in the Marine Corps and serves as the ceremonial and administrative headquarters. It’s home to the Commandant of the Marine Corps and hosts the Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon, the Marine Band (“The President’s Own”), and the Marine Drum and Bugle Corps.
“All Hands” refers to all Marines of a command or everyone in a group.
“Aboard” is a term used to indicate being on base or when all personnel are accounted for in a room, building, classroom, etc.
“Ashore” means being away from a Marine Corps installation or naval base.
“CONUS” is a military term that stands for the Continental United States, in contrast to OCONUS (Outside the Continental United States).
A “billet” refers to a military job, assignment, or place of residence.
“Rack” is a term used to refer to a Marine’s bed or sleeping area, typically a bunk or cot.
“Fart sack” is slang for a sleeping bag or the act of sleeping.
“Squared away” refers to being well-organized, disciplined, and in proper order.
An “Irish pennant” is string dangling from clothing, ie: a sloppy appearance.
“Field day” refers to a thorough cleaning and inspection of living and working areas, typically done in garrison or during training exercises.
Junk on the Bunk, Things on the Springs
“Junk on the Bunk” and “Things on the Springs” are phrases that refer to equipment and clothing inspections on a Marine’s rack.
“Bag drag” refers to the process of packing and preparing personal gear and equipment for deployment or movement.
High and tight
“High and tight” refers to a military-style haircut that is very short on the sides and back of the head, with a clean-cut appearance on top.
“To breakout” means to prepare something for use.
“Jing” is a term used to refer to money or change.
“ComRats” is an acronym for commuted rations, also known as BAS (basic allowance for subsistence). It refers to the amount of money paid to Marines for food while they are not on base.
“Liberty” is an authorized absence for less than 24 hours.
“Leave” is an authorized absence for a period greater than 24 hours.
A “chit” is a receipt of authorization, voucher, or note. Chits can grant Marines special treatment, such as exemptions from shaving or medical restrictions from duty.
“Scuttlebutt” refers to rumors or gossip circulating among Marines, often exchanged during informal gatherings near a water cooler (historically, a butt or barrel of water).
“Ghosting” refers to the act of disappearing or going silent without notice or communication, often used humorously or to describe evasive tactics during training.
Sometimes even good Marines make mistakes. Here are some of the most common terms for bad behavior used in the Marine Corps.
Acquired, Tactically Acquired
“Acquired” and “tactically acquired” are euphemisms for stolen or creatively obtained goods.
“BCD” is an acronym for Bad Conduct Discharge, a form of punitive discharge from the military.
A “brig” is a military prison or jail.
“CC” is a Marine Corps acronym for corrective custody, which refers to the brig.
A “brig chaser” is a Marine assigned to escort prisoners.
“Brig Rat” is a term used to describe a Marine who has spent a significant amount of time in the brig, or it can refer to correction specialist 5831 Marines.
The US Marine Corps has a variety of slang for mealtime. Below are some of the most common.
“Chow” is another term for food.
“Field chow” refers to meals or rations consumed while in the field during training exercises or deployments.
A “chowhall” is a military term for a mess hall or dining facility.
A “galley” is a naval term for a kitchen, often used by the Marine Corps.
“Geedunk” is slang for a snack bar or canteen where Marines can purchase food, drinks, and other items.
“Bulk fuel” is slang for Marine Corps food, often used humorously or disparagingly.
Here are some of the most important medical terms and slang related to the USMC.
“Medevac” combines the words “medical” and “evacuation” and is a term used for missions where helicopters rescue wounded Marines.
Devil Doc, Corpsman
“Devil Doc” and “Corpsman” are Marine Corps terms that refer to Navy medics who provide medical support to Marines in combat.
“Motrin Battalion” is a sarcastic term used to refer to a unit or group that relies heavily on medical attention or takes frequent sick call visits.
“Crotch rot” is slang for a fungal or bacterial infection that occurs in warm, humid environments, often affecting the groin area.
A “sick bay” is a maritime term for a hospital or clinic.
Explore the significance and terminology behind USMC ceremonies, flags, parades, and more.
“Colors” is military jargon for the US flag. In the Marine Corps, “colors” can also refer to the Marine Corps’ flag. The USMC observes various ceremonies, such as morning and evening colors, where the Marine Corps Colors are raised and lowered to mark the beginning and end of the day.
A “guidon” is a pennant or flag for Marine Corps units. It holds significant ceremonial importance and represents the spirit and history of the unit it belongs to.
Dog and Pony Show
A “dog and pony show” can describe ceremonial or public relations activities in the military, including the Marine Corps, that may be perceived as superficial or primarily focused on public image rather than operational readiness or effectiveness.
A “grinder” is a parade ground or ship deck primarily used for formations or drills.
The US Marine Corps is ripe with slang relating to their uniforms. Check out some of the most important below.
“Battle rattle” refers to the full combat gear worn by Marines, including a helmet, body armor, and weapons.
“Alphas” refers to the Marine Corps dress blue uniform worn by enlisted Marines.
A “pickle suit” is slang for the Marine Corps dress blue uniform, named for its dark blue color.
“Chest Candy” refers to the ribbons and medals worn on a Marine’s dress uniform.
Dress Blues, Blue Dress
“The Dress Blues” or “Blue Dress” is the formal uniform for the USMC, often referred to as Dress Blues.
“Blood stripes” refer to the red stripe worn on the dress blue trousers of non-commissioned officers (NCOs) and officers, symbolizing the blood shed by Marines in the Battle of Chapultepec during the Mexican-American War.
“Blood wings” refer to the wings pin awarded to Marines after completing jump school or earning their designation as a paratrooper.
“Cammies” is a shortened term for the camouflage utility uniform worn by Marines during field exercises or combat operations.
“War paint” refers to camouflage face paint applied by Marines for concealment during combat or training exercises.
Wearing the “brown side-out” describes wearing a desert camouflage pattern or wearing the brown side of the fabric on the outside.
Wearing the “green side-out” refers to woodland pattern camouflage.
A “cover” is a Marine term for a hat.
A “barracks cover” is a garrison cap.
“Boot bands” are made of elastic and secure the cuffs of combat pants.
A “field scarf” is a type of scarf or neck gaiter commonly worn by military personnel during field operations or in cold weather conditions.
Below are some of the more common Marine Corps terms about relationships.
A married Marine may sometimes be referred to as a “Brown Bagger.”
A “snag” is slang for a civilian spouse or partner of a Marine, derived from the acronym “Slightly Non-Army Girl.”
“Depend-a-potamus” refers to a Marine’s overweight dependent.
A “jody” is a military term for the affair partner of a service member’s significant other.