What does 'sus' mean?
What to Know
Sus is used as a synonym of suspicious, or suspect, as in “you’ve been acting pretty sus, I think you’re up to something.” It’s a slang word used to say that someone or something shouldn’t be trusted. While many who’ve only recently adopted the word believe it to be new and to have come out of the game “Among Us,” sus is in fact much older than that 2018 game: there is evidence of it in use from as early as the 1920s.
Update: This word was added in September 2022.
The Origin of Sus
Sus is suddenly everywhere because of its use in the game “Among Us,” a multiplayer internet-based whodunit game in which one player is secretly assigned the role of “imposter,” while everyone else is a crewmate trying to guess the imposter and complete tasks before the imposter offs them all. When you’re assigned “crewmate,” everyone else in the game you’re playing can be considered sus. The game was released in 2018 but jumped in popularity when 2020’s pandemic lockdown was in full swing.
Sus is not, however, at all new. In fact, its close relation suss, a verb used mostly in British English, has been in our dictionaries for decades. This suss, which is typically used with out, means “to figure out,” as in “sussing out whether they’re lying or not,” or “to inspect or investigate so as to gain more knowledge,” as in “sussing out the situation.” That word is based on suspect, and has been in use since at least the 1960s.
But even older than suss out is sus itself: Green’s Dictionary of Slang includes entries for a noun sus (also spelled suss) defined as both “a suspected person” and “a suspicion,” with both uses dating to the 1930s. And Green’s also includes an entry for the adjective use that’s currently popular (with suss again as a variant spelling), and dates it to 1955. Partridge’s Concise Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English dates adjectival use of sus to mean “suspicious” or “suspected” from 1925 and adjectival use of the abbreviated for sus. meaning “suspected” to 1920.
How Sus Is Used
Sus tends to be modified by words that qualify just how suspicious someone or something is. Evidence in published, edited text is currently most common in Australian and British English:
Next, is Jeff Lowe and his wife Lauren, who invested into Joe's zoo. However, things became a bit sus when there was a dubious fire on the premises and Joe was unable to recover from the financial loss.
— Shannen Findlay, MamaMia (mamamia.com.au), 16 Nov. 2021
Current U.S. use tends to be clearly identified as slang:
Last week, American Airlines took its turn, canceling over 1,600 flights. Weather was dutifully blamed again, along with staffing shortages. But the latter excuse is, as the kids say, pretty sus. Airlines that accepted federal pandemic relief money (and they all did) were barred from laying off workers.
—Amy Roberts, The Park Record (Park City, Utah), 2 Nov. 2021
U.S. use from before the advent of “Among Us” is also findable. From a 2017 slang explainer in Refinery29 called “The Dating Slang Terms You Need To Know” is this:
"Sus" is short-hand for "suspect." Think of the term as the 2017 version of "shady." A variety of situations can be sus, like your roommate's tendency to mysteriously "lose" your clothes whenever they borrow them, even though you totally saw that Zara top she swore she lost on her Instagram story last night. However, it's most often used in dating scenarios, as dating in general is sus AF.
He told me he's crashing with friends during his trip to Chicago, but I know that's where his ex-girlfriend lives, and whenever I casually ask about his 'friends' or their plans while he's in town, he gets totally sus about it.
Kari brought her best friend Marisa, who is also a lesbian, along as a third wheel on our first date, using the excuse that Marisa was having a rough time and needed company. But I got the vibe that Marisa came along to help Kari decide if I was queer enough, and the whole thing was just too sus for me, so I dipped.
— Sophie Saint Thomas, Refinery29, 12 Apr. 2017
You may in your encounters with users of sus bump into a related phrase: sussy baka. The sussy in this evocative phrase is a synonymous variation of sus, and baka is a Japanese borrowing that means “fool.” Note that our elucidation of a phrase’s meaning is not a recommendation that you put it into use.
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