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Dialect vs. Slang: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Updated on November 12, 2023
Dialect refers to a regional or social variation of a language with distinct vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammar. Slang refers to informal, often trendy language used by particular groups, characterized by colloquial phrases and new meanings.

Key Differences

Origin and Structureialects develop over time, influenced by historical, geographical, and social factors, and have distinct rules of grammar and pronunciation. Slang, conversely, evolves quickly, often emerging from subcultures and used to express identity or group solidarity.
Formality and Acceptanceialects are formal structures of language and can be part of standard language education. Slang is informal, not typically taught in formal education settings, and sometimes considered non-standard or improper.
Stability and Changeialects are relatively stable, with changes occurring over long periods. Slang terms are more fluid, often changing rapidly and sometimes falling out of use just as quickly as they appear.
Usage Contextialects are used in everyday communication and can be spoken by all age groups in a particular region or community. Slang is more often used by specific groups, like youth, and in casual or conversational contexts.
Linguistic Recognitionialects are recognized and studied as legitimate variations of a language. Slang, while also studied linguistically, is often seen as peripheral or supplementary to a language.

Comparison Chart


Regional/social language variation
Informal, trendy group language


More stable, changes slowly
Fluid, changes rapidly


Everyday communication, all age groups
Specific groups, casual contexts


Formal and part of language education
Informal and often not part of formal education

Linguistic Change

Influenced by historical/geographical factors
Influenced by cultural trends, media

Dialect and Slang Definitions


A form of language specific to a region.
The Southern dialect has a distinct accent.


Non-standard, informal expressions.
Teens often use slang that adults don't understand.


Language variation based on social groups.
The dialect in urban areas differs from rural areas.


Language used to establish group identity.
Skaters have their own slang.


Characterized by distinct pronunciation.
Their dialect has a unique pronunciation of certain vowels.


Phrases that are fashionable or trendy.
That slang term is really popular on social media.


Has unique grammatical rules and vocabulary.
This dialect uses different verb conjugations.


Casual and conversational language.
Slang makes the dialogue in movies sound more natural.


A subgroup of a language with its own features.
The dialect spoken here reflects its historical isolation.


Words with new, unconventional meanings.
In slang, 'lit' means exciting or excellent.


A regional or social variety of a language distinguished by pronunciation, grammar, or vocabulary, especially a variety of speech differing from the standard literary language or speech pattern of the culture in which it exists
Cockney is a dialect of English.


A kind of language occurring chiefly in casual and playful speech, made up typically of coinages and figures of speech that are deliberately used in place of standard terms for added raciness, humor, irreverence, or other effect.


A variety of language that with other varieties constitutes a single language of which no single variety is standard
The dialects of Ancient Greek.


Language peculiar to a group; argot or jargon
Thieves' slang.


The language peculiar to the members of a group, especially in an occupation; jargon
The dialect of science.


To use slang.


To use angry and abusive language
Persuaded the parties to quit slanging and come to the bargaining table.


How is slang different from regular language?

Slang is informal and often trendy, used mainly in casual or conversational contexts, unlike the more formal and stable structure of standard language.

Can dialects become standard language?

Yes, some dialects can evolve into or influence the development of a standard language over time.

Do slang terms last long?

Slang terms are often short-lived, changing with trends and cultural shifts.

What is a dialect in linguistics?

A dialect is a regional or social variation of a language with its own grammatical, phonetic, and lexical characteristics.

Are dialects bound by geography?

Dialects are often influenced by geographical factors, but they can also be defined by social factors.

Why do people use slang?

People use slang for various reasons, including ease of communication, creative expression, and group identity.

Do all languages have dialects?

Most languages with a sizeable number of speakers have dialects due to regional and social variations.

Is slang always considered improper?

Not always, though it's informal, it can be contextually appropriate and widely accepted within certain groups.

Is slang a sign of language decay?

No, slang is a natural part of language evolution and not indicative of decay.

Can someone have a dialect without an accent?

Dialects include more than just pronunciation differences, so one can speak a dialect with minimal or no noticeable accent.

Are dialects mutually intelligible?

Many dialects are mutually intelligible, though some may differ significantly from the standard language.

Is it important to learn dialects?

Learning dialects can be important for cultural understanding and effective communication in specific regions.

Is slang used in literature?

Slang is often used in literature to convey authenticity, character, and setting.

Do dialects have formal rules?

Dialects have their own set of rules and structures, though they may not be as formally codified as standard language.

Why is it challenging to understand some dialects?

Variations in pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar can make some dialects challenging for non-native speakers to understand.

How quickly does slang change?

Slang can change rapidly, influenced by media, pop culture, and societal changes.

Can slang become part of the standard language?

Some slang terms may become widely accepted and integrated into the standard language over time.

How many dialects can a language have?

A language can have numerous dialects, depending on the diversity and size of its speaker population.

How does media influence slang?

Media plays a significant role in popularizing and spreading slang terms.

Can bilingual people have multiple dialects?

Yes, bilingual individuals can speak different dialects of each of their languages.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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