Swiping, Ghosting, Tinderella, and Phubbing: Relationships in the Age of Technology

"Tinderella," "phubbing," and more words at the intersection of relationships and technology.

Mignon Fogarty
3-minute read

In honor of launching our new podcast, Relationship Doctor, and his episode about three ways technology can ruin your relationships, I have the run-down on a few words related to online dating.

Swipe Right

First is “swipe right.” This phrase originally came from the dating app called Tinder because in the app, your swipe right on a profile to show you like that person. Your hottie isn’t notified that you’ve swiped right unless they have swiped right on you too, and then it’s a match. But unless you are both feeling good about each other, swiping right just tells the algorithm “I like this person” or maybe more generally “This is the kind of person I like; show me more like this.”

But “swipe right” has moved beyond dating both in apps and in real life, and people now use it more generally to say they like something. For example, you might see a hot fudge sundae and say, “I’d swipe right on that.” 

It’s not in the major serious dictionaries yet, but it’s been in Urban Dictionary since 2014.

Not surprisingly, “swipe left” means the opposite. You swipe left to say you’re not interested in someone on Tinder, and you can use “swipe left” as slang to say you don’t like something. 


Ghosting isn’t a new behavior, but technology makes it easier…or maybe harder.

Ghosting is when someone you’re dating cuts off communication and disappears, like a ghost. I got ghosted in college, but there wasn’t a verb for it back then. 

Today, when it’s so much easier to be in touch—when everyone is just a text message away—there’s really no denying that you’re being avoided. You can’t just say, “Maybe his roommate didn’t give him my message,” or “Maybe her answering machine is broken.” If someone is suddenly unavailable in every way, you’ve been ghosted.

The English word “ghost” is quite old and is one of the words that goes all the way back to Proto-Indo-European so has similar words in related language. We get the noun “ghost” from the Old English word “gast.” But according to Etymonline, it also existed in Old Saxon (“gest”), Old Frisian (“jest”), Middle Dutch (“gheest”), Dutch (“geest”), and German (“Geist.”)


“Tinderella" is a play on the fairytale character Cinderella and the dating app Tinder. A Tinderlla can be a woman who spends a whole lot of time on Tinder or going on dates she set up through Tinder (“Sarah has been a real Tinderella lately”), or it can be a name for a woman who vanishes or who you can’t have, like Cinderella suddenly leaving the ball at midnight in the fairytale. Maybe you accidentally swiped left instead of right and now she’s gone, or maybe you swiped right, but she didn’t so you don’t get a match. (And it just occurred to me that when Cinderalla fled from the ball, she essentially ghosted Prince Charming. See, I told you it’s not new.)


In his newest episode, Relationship Doctor has some great ideas to keep “phubbing” from getting between you and your partner.  “Phubbing” is a blend of “phone” and “snubbing,” and it’s what you’re doing when your eyes are glued to your phone instead of to your honey. Since the average American now spends 3 to 4 hours a day on a phone, you’ve probably been on both ends of phubbing. So check out Relationship Doctor wherever you listen to podcasts. 

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Mignon Fogarty is Grammar Girl and the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips. Check out her New York Times bestseller, "Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing."

About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips and the author of seven books on language, including the New York Times bestseller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing." She is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame, and the show is a five-time winner of Best Education Podcast in the Podcast Awards. She has appeared as a guest expert on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the Today Show. Her popular LinkedIn Learning courses help people write better to communicate better.