80+ Sayings, Quotes, Slogans and Nostalgic Words from the 1980s

80+ Sayings, Quotes, Slogans and Nostalgic Words from the 1980s

The 1980s was a time of big hair, MTV, and memorable pop culture that still resonates with people today. Some of the most defining aspects of 80s culture include slang words, famous quotes, advertising taglines, and nostalgic words. 

For over 20 years, Capture has not only preserved precious memories, but also cultural icons and history. That’s why we put together this list of 80+ sayings from the 80s to evoke your nostalgia and keep the fabulous decade alive in your heart. 

Keep reading to reminisce about 80s slang terms like “Cowabunga” or “No duh,” memorable quotes from movies and historical figures, nostalgic words for tech and pop culture, and iconic slogans. 

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Iconic Sayings and Catchphrases

These iconic sayings of the 80s are the things we used to say (and might still say because they are still ingrained in our vocabulary) that are indicative of the time period. 

1. "Totally tubular"

“Totally tubular” was an iconic slang phrase that came from the surfer slang that contributed to many popular expressions from the 80s. You might remember saying this about something you found outstanding. 

2. "Gag me with a spoon"

This is such an eloquent way to say something is gross that evokes such imagery and was adapted from valley girl speak, or lingo from the San Fernando Valley that made such an impact on pop culture. 

3. "Like, totally"

This is another one of the more lasting sayings from the 80s that was often used sarcastically but could also be genuine agreement at something. You get double points for combining it with “totally tubular!”

4. "Fer sure"

This one is less about the actual nostalgic words and phrases from the 80s and more about the way you say them. While many people still say, “for sure,” saying it with a valley or surfer accent makes it sound totally 80s. 

5. "Radical"

To call something radical is to say it is cool and out of this world and was often used to describe the bright, neon, and wild colors from the 1980s. 

6. "Cowabunga"

While originally used in the 1940s and 50s in the show “Howdy Doody,” surfing culture and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles brought it to the forefront of pop culture in the 1980s. It was even used by the Cookie Monster from “Sesame Street.” 

7. "No duh"

“No duh” is a sarcastic way to tell someone that what they said was glaringly obvious. While it might sound ridiculous today, both “no duh” and “no doy” lasted through the 90s in pop culture slang. 

8. "Grody to the max"

When something is “Grody to the max,” it means that it’s something that is super disgusting, vile, or downright unpalatable. You might have said this word when watching one of the iconic 1980s horror movies! 

9. "Bodacious"

You may have heard this word the most in the iconic 1980s movie, “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” but it was already used in some circles throughout the 80s before that film was released. 

10. "Barf me out"

While you can say this to express your disgust, if you remember the way we used it as part of 1980s slang words then you probably know it commonly meant that you were anxious and wanted to get those feelings out. 

11. "Take a chill pill"

We all need to “take a chill pill” sometimes and this saying from the 80s still gets used today, but it started when ADHD was first recognized and medicated during the 1980s. 

12. "Gnarly"

Another word derived from surfer slang, “Gnarly” is a great way to say something is extreme, dangerous, or bizarre. 

13. "Don't have a cow"

Telling someone not to have a cow is similar to telling them to take a chill pill and is a very fun and playful way to say so. 

14. "Psych!"

“Psych!” is sometimes spelled “Sike,” and means to trick someone. You might have used it to act like you were giving someone a high five or a dollar bill and then yelling it as you demonstrate you are not, in fact, going to do so. 

15. "That's bogus"

If something is bogus, then it’s something ridiculous whether that was a scam, a hoax, or a tall tale told by a friend. 

16. "As if!"

This was a shortened way to say, “As if it were true” and is a playful and 80s way to say, “Yeah, right.” It is often associated with valley girl ditz slang, similar to “wastoid” or “spaz” which is associated with skater and surfer slang phrases. 

17. "What's your damage?"

If you want a 1980s slang way to say, “What’s your problem?” then this is the perfect choice. It was coined in the 1988 teen drama “Heathers.” 

18. "Like, gag me"

We’ve already covered “Gag me with a spoon,” and valley girl slang that added more “likes” than we’d care to admit we adopted in our own vocabulary. This slang phrase simply combines the two. 

19. "Like a boss"

To do something like a boss is to do it with confidence and authority, or even ego. You might drive one of the most iconic 80s cars like a boss or ask out the cute guy or girl with such confidence that your friend said you were, “Like a boss, bro!”

20. "Party on, dudes!"

What a cool way to say keep partying and doing what you’re doing! Features in movies and TV shows, this saying become a staple of 1980s pop culture. 

21. "Talk to the hand"

While often associated with the 1990s because it was popularized on television, many probably heard this phrase years before when someone simply didn’t want to hear what you had to say. 

22. "Like, oh my god"

Frank Zappa’s satirical song “Valley Girl” from 1982 featured many memorable phrases from the 80s including this one, “Fer sure,” “Like, totally,” and more, but this one had true lasting power in our vocabularies and may have evolved directly into, “Like, OMG” from the days when we were transitioning from VHS to digital. 

23. "Get a clue"

When someone is unable to take a hint, you might tell them to “Get a clue, ” especially during the 1980s.  

24. "I'm so sure"

“I’m So Sure” is such an iconic phrase that it’s become the name of a podcast that discusses pop culture primarily of the 1980s decade. 

25. "Oh snap!"

Use this phrase to express surprise or dismay. While it has been used off and on for many decades, many associate it with popular catchphrases from the 80s.

26. "That's so rad"

Saying something is “radical” quickly got reduced to saying it was “rad” and when you combine that with valley girl and surfer slang, you get this memorable saying. Later in the late 80s and early 90s, you could say, “That’s hella rad!” 

27. "Righteous"

While “Righteous” had been used in some regions and cultures for years, it got extremely popular during the 1980s. You might tell someone they have a “Righteous bod” or even use it as a slang phrase to make fun of geeks, dweebs, and dorks. 

28. "Eat my shorts.”

This is a popular “The Simpsons” catchphrase that was a great way to tell someone to leave you alone. Combine it with popular 80s slang word insults like “nerd,” “wannabe,” or “airhead” for even more dramatic results. 

29. "Like, whatever"

“Like, whatever” was a great way to tell a homeboy or homegirl that you weren’t too interested in what they were talking about. 

Memorable Quotes from the 80s

In addition to classic sayings from the 80s, there are also famous quotes from the 1980s from movies, entertainers, and historical figures. These quotes made a deep impression on 1980s culture and the way we talked and many of them are still famous lines today. Just make sure if you have these movies on laserdisc or VHS you need to digitize your old media to preserve it! 

Movie Quotes

 

30. "I'll be back." - Arnold Schwarzenegger as The Terminator

One of the most famous movie lines of all time was memorably delivered by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the groundbreaking movie. 

31. "I feel the need...the need for speed!" - Top Gun

Combine this famous quote with the 1986 Kenny Loggins hit “Danger Zone” and you’re in for a nostalgic Top Gun movie night.  

32. "Nobody puts Baby in a corner." - Dirty Dancing

This famous quote from “Dirty Dancing” was repeated constantly throughout the 1980s that it probably got on your nerves. 

33. "Do or do not. There is no try." - Yoda in Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back

Remember when everyone tried to talk like Yoda from Star Wars? They still do, but it all started in the 1980s with the second film in the original trilogy. 

34. "E.T. phone home.” - E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial 

This is not only one of the most quotable lines from the 1980s, but it’s from one of the most impactful and beloved movies of the decade. 

35. "Great Scott!" - Back to the Future

Christopher Lloyd’s delivery of this line has everyone of all ages saying it to their friends to express surprise. 

36. "I'm Batman" – Batman

The 1989 Batman movie with Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson features this quotable line as well as many others like, “You can call me Joker” and “You wanna get nuts?” 

37. "No wire hangers, ever!" - Mommie Dearest

This iconic movie line was delivered by the talented Joan Crawford and many people even credit it for hurting the wire hanger industry! 

38. "Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters!" – Ghostbusters

Everybody was saying and singing this line during the Summer of 1984 after the release of the hilarious and action-packed Ghostbusters film. 

39. "Wax on, wax off" - The Karate Kid

“Wax on, wax off” became the philosophy of kids and their parents in 1984 when “The Karate Kid” released raving reviews. 

40. "It's showtime!" – Beetlejuice

As the second Michael Keaton film on our list, this line as well as the repetition of “Beetlejuice” and the singing of “The Banana Boat Song” thrived in 80s pop culture. 

41. "I love the smell of napalm in the morning" - Apocalypse Now

While this movie technically came out in 1979, you probably associate the famous line with the 1980s because it was repeated throughout many rough mornings when we wanted to veg out as couch potatoes instead of going to work or school. 

42. "Bueller... Bueller... Bueller..." - Ferris Bueller's Day Off

The monotone delivery of this line by Ben Stein just begged us to make our best impressions. It also helped that it came from one of the most famous teen 80s movies. 

43. "The power of Christ compels you!" - The Exorcist

If you had a VHS tape of this movie, then you might have broken it out of fear (don’t worry, you can repair VHS tapes!). This quote and the terrifying spider walk scene impacted our lives and the horror industry as a whole. 

Notable Music/Entertainment Quotes

 

44. "We are the champions" – Queen

“We are the champions” became the go-to song to sing after a sporting event, and it still is! If you have old camcorder memories from the 1980s of the sports you and your loved ones played, you might hear this song blasting from the background. 

45. "Like a Virgin" – Madonna

This song was one of the most popular songs of the entire decade, so it’s no surprise that it lands on our list of the most famous sayings from the 80s. 

46. "I want my MTV" - MTV advertising campaign

If you weren’t alive in the 1980s, then there’s no way to express how big MTV was, but if you were then you’ll remember this original slogan reiterated by the Dire Straits hit, “Money for Nothing.”

Quotes from Important Figures

47. "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" - Ronald Reagan, 1987

Ronald Reagan delivered one of the classic one-liners from the 80s during a 1987 speech in West Berlin to challenge the Soviet Union to make good on their promises of change. 

48. "Just say no." - Nancy Reagan, anti-drug campaign slogan, 1980s

“Just say no” became the anti-drug slogan of choice during the 1980s and continued to be used into the 1990s. If you grew up during that time period, then you probably remember the posters and films that were displayed on old projectors to school children throughout the United States. 

Iconic Slogans and Advertisements from the 80s

While we don’t always associate advertising taglines with popular culture, the most famous advertising slogans make a deep impact on our memories of times long ago. In some cases, they also helped to shape and define 1980s culture as a whole. 

49. "Just do it" – Nike

One of the most famous taglines, “Just Do It” from Nike was first introduced in 1988. It helped build the Nike brand into what it is today. 

50. "Because I'm worth it" - L'Oréal

While this slogan was introduced in the 1970s, it was most prominently featured in ads throughout the 1980s. 

51. "Where's the beef?" - Wendy's

Not only one of the most famous commercials of the 1980s, but one of the most repeated taglines, “Where’s the Beef?!” that made fun of competitors. 

52. "The choice of a new generation" – Pepsi

To connect with the youth of the day, Pepsi used this tagline from 1984 to 1988. It even returned for a second round in 1990! 

53. "Have a break, have a Kit Kat" - Kit Kat

While this slogan was introduced long before the sayings from the 80s, the “Gimme a Break” jingle came out in 1986 thereby reinvigorating the original tagline. 

54. "Milk: It does a body good" - National Milk Processor Board

The milk commercials of the mid-80s are memorable and got us all to drink more milk. It lasted until the early 90s when the “Got Milk” campaign reigned. 

55. "Be all that you can be" - U.S. Army

First released in 1980, this slogan lasted for the U.S. Army from the time of VHS to the age of DVDs and likely inspired many men and women to enlist. 

56. "Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is" - Alka-Seltzer

While this tagline was introduced in the 1960s, it continued through the 80s as Alka-Seltzer became even more popular as we tried to maintain indigestion from all the Planters Cheese Balls, Hot Pockets, and pizza that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles made us crave. 

 57. "We bring good things to life" - General Electric

Introduced in 1979, this slogan was used for General Electric all the way until 2003 and helped define our commercial-watching experience during the 1980s. 

58. "Calgon, take me away!" – Calgon

This became the go-to slogan for anyone who was stressed during the 1980s because the commercials feature actors striving to deal with being worn out and finding a soothing bubble bath to be exactly the thing they needed. 

59. "I'd walk a mile for a Camel" - Camel Cigarettes

While this slogan had been used for years before the 1980s, it continued to be found in magazines, and store displays during the decade. Since that type of advertising for cigarettes was banned in 1989, it is a nostalgic slogan of the time period. 

60. "It’s nice to feel so good about a meal” – KFC

Sure, “It’s finger lickin’ good” is the more famous KFC slogan, but “It’s nice to feel so good about a meal” is more associated with the 1980s and addresses consumer guilt for eating not-so-healthy fast-food chicken. 

61. "It’s a good time for the great taste of McDonald’s” - McDonald's

McDonald’s was soaring in popularity during the 1980s and this slogan was one of the most successful for the brand. It stuck in our minds and sold countless Big Macs. 

62. "Snap, crackle, pop" - Rice Krispies

One of the longest lasting slogans is “Snap, Crackle, Pop” but the iconic 80s commercials that feature these timeless marketing characters are some of the most memorable featuring 80s cultural references to vivid colors, futuristic animation, iconic fashion, and more.  

Nostalgic Words and Slang

As humans, we connect sites, smells, culture, music, cars, colors, and everything else with particular situations or time periods. Some of the most visceral nostalgia comes from language and retro slogans from the 1980s included references to old technology, toys, movies, games, fashion, and more. Maybe these words and slang will promote feelings of nostalgia for you today! 

63. Cassette

Cassette players and tapes, including the popular Walkman as well as large boomboxes, helped define music and the way we consumed new tunes during the 1980s. 

64. Rubik's Cube

The Rubik’s Cube challenged 80s people of all ages and was one of the most popular games throughout the entire decade. Have you ever solved one?

65. Pac-Man

Released in 1980, Pac-Man helped define a generation of video gamers, at least until the release of the Nintendo Entertainment System and Super Mario Bros. 

66. Leg warmers

While leg warmers are becoming popular again in 2023, their real popularity was during the 1980s which evolved from dancing fashion and comfort. 

67. Neon

Neon colors were huge in the 1980s and when it comes to sayings from the 80s, the term neon needs to be included because we used it a ton during those years between 1979 and 1990. 

68. Jellies (shoes)

The word “jellies” might not mean much to you if you didn’t experience the 80s, but it’s one of the vintage mottos of the 80s as jelly shoes became super popular. 

69. Acid wash jeans

Acid-wash jeans go right with the surfer culture and words like “radical,” “bodacious,” and “totally tubular.” 

70. Cabbage Patch Kids

Cabbage patch kids were a huge fad and dominated the toy market in the early to mid-1980s. Not only that, but if you preserved your toys like you should preserve all your memories, they might be worth a lot of money today! 

71. Trapper Keeper

When parents started hearing kids everywhere talking about “Trapper Keepers” they might have been confused, but pretty soon it became a staple of 80s slang. 

72. VHS

While you might not even know what VHS stands for, it was super popular in the 80s and became a part of everyone’s vocabulary.

73. Fanny pack

Fanny packs were popular in the late 80s and early 90s and are getting more popular today as well. If you wore them outside of those dates, then you ran the risk of being labeled as a geek. 

74. Scrunchie

“Scrunchie” became one of the popular 80s phrases after being patented in 1987. While still somewhat popular today, they were found on almost every girl’s hair and wrist throughout the late 1980s. 

75. Hypercolor

Hypercolor t-shirts and shorts change color with heat and were very popular during the 1980s, but now the phrase evokes nostalgia, and you may not have heard it since 1989. 

76. Hacky sack

While Hacky Sacks became popular during the 1970s, they found their way into the cultural subconscious during the 80s and became a popular game in schoolyards, college quads, and beach towns. 

77. New Wave

New Wave music was huge in the 80s with bands like The Cars, The Talking Heads, and The Police incorporating the style in their biggest hits. 

78. Breakdancing

The term “breakdancing” was first created in 1980 and rapidly became a recognized term for the style of dance that was huge urban 1980s culture. 

79. Swatch watches

Swatch watches offered the bright 80s colors and commercialized style that was popular in the 1980s and could be found on wrists everywhere you went. The term “swatch” even evolved to describe other fashions, media, and interests. 

80. Reebok Pumps

Released in 1989, Reebok released the Pump as a competitor to the Air Jordan and if you go back and watch old video camera footage from the time period there’s a good chance you’ll see them on people’s feet. 

81. Hammer pants

The terms “Hammer pants” and “parachute pants” became recognizable in the 1980s to refer to the type of ants MC Hammer wore in popular MTV videos. That’s just about as definitively 80s as you can get.

Conclusion

These 80+ mottos, catchphrases, terms, slang, and sayings from the 80s helped to define the time and our memories of it. Just as important as the big hair, MTV videos, vivid colors, and cultural icons are the ways we talked about those things during the 1980s with words like radical, tubular, and bodacious, famous movie quotes from Back to the Future and The Terminator, and iconic products like Reebok Pumps and fanny packs. 

To preserve your memories and personal vintage mottos from the 1980s, it’s also important to update your old media to the digital age. Whether you have old home movies, photos, film reels, or other analog media, Capture can help you preserve it forever. Click here to learn about our affordable high-quality digitization services! 

 

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