‘Chillin’: Definition, Meaning, and Examples

By Sophia Merton, updated on February 3, 2023

Did someone tell you that they’re “just ‘chillin’”? What does that mean, and where does the phrase come from?

In short, ‘chillin’ is a slang word that means “relaxing.” It’s often used to describe hanging out without doing anything in particular. The use of the word in this way dates back to the late 1970s and 80s, but the word ‘chill’ itself has a much longer history.

What Does 'Chillin' Mean?

Chillin is a slang word that means to spend time relaxing. It can also be written ‘chilling,’ as ‘chillin’ is just the shortened and colloquial version of the full word.

The word ‘chilling’ has several other definitions, and you can determine which meaning is intended from the context:

  • Frightening and horrifying
  • To frighten or horrify (someone)
  • Making something cold, as in food or drink
  • Making (someone) cold, as in “it’s chilling me to the bone.”

If someone tells you they’re “just ‘chillin,’” though, they are implying that they are hanging out in a relaxed state, often not doing anything in particular.

‘Chill’ can also be used to describe a state of calmness and equanimity. For example, someone might describe a person as “really ‘chill’” to convey that they are easy-going and relaxed in behavior or character. An activity could also be described as ‘chill,’ which means it’s fun, enjoyable, and relaxing to do. When a person says, you should “just ‘chill’ out,” it’s being used as a directive to calm down.

There are a number of other related slang terms, including ‘chill pill,’ ‘chill out,’ and ‘Netflix and chill.’

Where Does 'Chillin' Come From?

The word ‘chill’ comes from an Old English word ciele, meaning “coolness, cold, frost, the sensation of cold experienced in illness, the sensation of suffering from cold.” The use of the word as a verb to mean “to make cold” dates back to around 1400, while the intransitive meaning of “to grow cold, feel cold” is a bit older from the late fourteenth century.

The Online Etymology Dictionary says that the definition meaning “hang out” was first recorded in 1985, and the use of the phrase ‘chill out’ meaning to relax, emerged in 1979.

Actually, though, the term ‘chill pill’ and other slang uses of the word ‘chill’ date back much further. There is a recipe in Housekeeping in Old Virginia: Containing Contributions from Two Hundred and Fifty of Virginia’s Noted Housewives, Distinguished for Their Skill in the Culinary Art and Other Branches of Domestic Economy, an 1877 book for housewives for homemade ‘chill pills’ that was intended to help with fever. Another recipe for ‘chill pills’ can be found in an 1897 book entitled Non-secret Formulas: A Collection of Over Four Thousand Formulas and One Thousand Prize Prescriptions for the Use of Physicians and Druggists by Michael Griffiths.

‘Chilling the mark’ was a term used in the 1950s by pickpockets to refer to victims that were unaware that they had been robbed. The use of the word ‘chill’ to mean “cool” stems from jazz slang in the 1930s and 1940s.

The reference in the Online Etymology Dictionary post regarding ‘chill’ meaning “relax,” might be in relation to the 1979 Sugarhill Gang song “Rapper’s Delight.” The word ‘chill’ is used in this way in the following lyrics:

There's a time to laugh, a time to cry

A time to live, and a time to die

A time to break and a time to chill

To act civilized or act real ill.

The 1985 usage of the word ‘chill’ to mean “relaxed” can be found in the following excerpt from the magazine Jet:

“Sheila E. sizzles in the new flick, Krush Groove, but some New York critics couldn't groove with it because many of the terms are unfamiliar to them. Examples: breakin' out (slang for leaving), chill (for cool down) and death (for something that's really good).”

Examples of 'Chillin' In Sentences

How would you use ‘chillin’ in a sentence? Let’s look at a few examples:

  • “Our holiday consisted of chillin by the beach and going for moonlit strolls. It was incredible!”
  • “Come with me; I want you to meet my fiance. She’s chillin over by the fireplace right now.”
  • “I thought y’all might want to come with me to the party, but I can tell you’re just chillin tonight.”
  • “She was worried the dog would be unhappy in the cage during the long drive, but every time she looked back, he was just chillin.”
  • “I’m glad to hear that you had a blast at the event. Honestly, I was so tired I don’t feel like I missed out at all. I was just chillin and I loved every minute of it.”
  • It sucks that you can’t come over, but you’re not missing much. We’re just chillin and watching some TV.”
  • “He never understood why people got so angry when they were stuck in traffic. He loved the welcome break where chillin was all he had to do.”
  • “Sarah is a remarkable athlete, and she never gets stressed out before a game. You can tell that she knows that slow and steady wins the race. When everyone else is freaking out, she’s just chillin.”

Other Ways to Say 'Chillin'

Finally, let’s take a look at a few synonyms for ‘chillin’ with the meaning of “relaxing”:

  • Lounging
  • Lazing around
  • Taking it easy
  • Hanging around
  • Hanging out
  • Loafing
  • Bumming
  • Idling
  • Taking a breather
  • Putting (one’s) feet up

Are you on a roll learning new English idioms and slang terms? Don’t stop now! Head over to our idioms blog for more words and phrases to add to your vocabulary.

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Written By:
Sophia Merton
Sophia Merton is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Sophia received her BA from Vassar College. She is passionate about reading, writing, and the written word. Her goal is to help everyone, whether native English speaker or not, learn how to write and speak with perfect English.

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