Almost 150 million people around the world consume cannabis, according to the World Health Organization. With its rising popularity comes new vocabulary for many people.

To help navigate, here are several cannabis words, their meanings, and their origins.


Marijuana is one of the most commonly recognized terms for cannabis. The term comes from the Spanish “marihuana” and generally refers to the cannabis plant when used as a drug.

Some activists are pushing for updated terminology in laws and discourse after a history of government officials using the term “marijuana” to pin drug abuse issues on people of color. For example, in the 1930s, Federal Bureau of Narcotics director Harry Anslinger said that most marijuana smokers were people of color and that “their Satanic music, jazz and swing, results from marijuana use,” according to Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research.

Mary Jane

Mary Jane is a slang term for marijuana, and, like the word marijuana, its use in different languages is widespread.

“Some Spanish smokers refer to the herb simply as ‘Maria,’ while the French sometimes call it ‘Marie Jeanne,’” according to lifestyle company Merry Jane.

The term was celebrated with a different spelling in a 2007 song, “Merry Jane,” by Redman, Snoop Dogg, and Nate Dogg.


While most people know a weed is an unwanted plant in gardens, it may have accidentally become a synonym for cannabis after being associated with a Mexican plant called “locoweed.”

“This word was sometimes used interchangeably with marijuana in late 19th century Mexico, so when stories about marijuana started to make their way to the U.S. the two plants got conflated,” according to NPR.

In recent years, “weed” has gained popularity as the go-to term for casually referring to cannabis, according to Google Trends.

A Comprehensive Look at Cannabis Words and Their Meanings
Photo: tsareva via 123RF


While dank refers to somewhere musty and damp, it also is a word for good cannabis. Dank first appeared in Urban Dictionary in 2003, according to Weedmaps. Its meaning has evolved from “sticky, hairy, stinky, and highly potent marijuana” to quality cannabis.

“Consumers today ask for dank weed when they want a strain with an unmistakable, pungent, gassy aroma and a high-potency experience,” according to Weedmaps.


Hemp is a cannabis plant used for its fibers, edible seeds, and oil, according to Merriam-Webster. Some scholars believe the term “hemp” has been used since ancient times, when people in ancient Egypt, China, Greece, and the Roman Empire used cannabis as medicine, according to the National Library of Medicine

As a fiber, hemp is considered an eco-friendly alternative to cotton because cultivating it requires less water, land, and pesticide use, according to the Hemp Foundation


The bud of the cannabis plant is the flower. Female cannabis plants produce the flower used for psychotropic and medicinal uses, according to Weedhub. Male cannabis plants don’t create a consumable flower and are useful only for reproduction.


A possible side effect of cannabis use is a heavy body sensation that leaves a person sitting without moving. This intoxicated feeling is called being stoned, which means “not behaving or thinking normally because of the effects of a drug,” according to Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries.


The term “getting high” has roots in the 1620s, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary. Many use the word “high” to mean euphoric or exhilarating. Similar to the term “stoned,” it was initially used in reference to alcohol consumption. Many experts have their own theories about how and when the term began to reference the effects of cannabis consumption. 


The origins of cannabis’ symbolic number can be traced to 1971, according to Snopes. A group of friends found a map leading to a cannabis crop in San Francisco, where they would meet after school at 4:20. They smoked weed and searched for the mystery crop. The friends referred to their meetup with the code 420. Eventually, The Grateful Dead band members started using the term, which then spread to fans. 

With so many people using cannabis in various forms, references and terms are constantly changing and expanding. However, these terms should help with navigating how people use and discuss cannabis.