28 trading slang expressions every trader should know
When it comes to trading slang, it’s a jungle out there, with trading terminology that can be difficult to decipher. We’ve rounded up the usual suspects and tamed them into short definitions so you can speculate with confidence.
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Trading terminology related to animals
Traders’ fondness for fauna is well known, with plenty of animal terms to confuse the average bystander. While no one definitely knows where these bestial terms came from, it’s thought that the bear was the first on the scene.
Apparently, this came from a proverb of murky origins that was nevertheless very popular by the beginning of the 18th century: ‘it is unwise to sell the bearskin before one has skinned the bear’.
This was quickly shortened into ‘bearskin jobber’, a dismissive name for ‘bears’ who sold on borrowed stock (often items of value like skins) in what could easily be imagined as the world’s first futures market in 18th century Europe. The bull dates back to around the same time, though with less clear origins.
After that, the menagerie gates were opened and more animal terminology trotted into trading. So, who’s who in the zoo? Here are some of the most common stock market spirit animals:
Bulls used to specifically refer to an upward trending market, a cycle of growth, but can now also mean an optimistic speculator, often going long. Some believe that bull markets got their name from the way bull’s toss their foes and spike their horns upwards, but there’s no real proof of this.
Find out more about bullish trading
The antithesis to a bull market is a bear one, which is a depressed and/or downward-trending market. Likewise, a bearish trader or investor is pessimistic, where bullish ones have positive sentiments about a market.
Wolves of Wall Street
Not only a movie in which Leonardo DiCaprio again eluded the Oscar, wolves of Wall Street refers to stock market wunderkinds famous for unscrupulous success on Wall Street. Although many assume it was coined for Jordan Belfort, the real-life wolf that DiCaprio portrays, there’s evidence of the term being used almost a century earlier to describe diamond cane-brandishing braggart David Lamar. Lamar was jailed repeatedly, including for impersonating a congressman.
A term that has become more well known since Brexit, black swans refer a completely unforeseen and unexpected stance. The expression, so named after the old saying that, theoretically, black swans must exist although only white ones were ever seen (clearly, the author of this phrase didn’t travel widely). Black swans are as significant as they are startling and must have a huge impact (often negative) on the market. Famous black swans include the bursting of the dot com bubble in the 90s and the 2008 global financial crisis.
The dead cat bounce
Like its name poetically suggests, the dead cat bounce refers to the last gap rallying movement of a ‘dead market, when a stock’s price rises from depression briefly, only to fall again. However, whether dead cats do indeed bounce or not is an answer most analysts won’t admit to testing.
Other animal terms in trading
Whales are movers and shakers (whether a trust, bank or even an individual) with such a lot of capital that their buys and sells make waves in the market like only animals of gigantic size can.
Hawks and doves
Unlike bulls and bears, traders’ favourite two birds refer to the central bank’s decisions regarding interest rates. ‘Hawkish’, as the more aggressive avian, are those in favour of raising the interest rate and a tighter monetary policy to curb inflation. A meeker ‘dove’ stance is of the opinion that the central bank should keep interest rates low or flat. Like the name suggests, it’s often an olive branch aiming to bolster economic growth in a depressed market.
One of the newest terms here, unicorns are startups that have come to be valued at $1 billion or more. They seem to be named for their rarity and, some might cynically suggest, the impossibility of ever finding one.
Tigers are rare in that they are one of the few terms to come from an acronym – TIGR, which stands for Treasury Investors Growth Receipt. This was a type of Treasury bond invented and patented by Merrill Lynch bank in the 1980s. Although largely outdated now, TIGRs were once popular for the fact that holders didn’t have to pay interest or taxes on ‘tiger’ bonds.
Trading slang to define market movements
Short and long squeezes
Squeezes aren’t moves on your part as a trader – rather, they refer to unusual market movements. A short squeeze is when the underlying asset traded (for example, a stock’s share price) unexpectedly appreciates in price drastically over a short period of time. It’s so named because it ‘squeezes’ any short sellers of that market, who often exit their trades in a short squeeze to limit their losses as the market’s price rises.
Long squeezes, on the other hand, are often just as sudden as short squeezes, but these instead ‘squeeze’ those going long. This is because a long squeeze is when a market drops significantly and unexpectedly very quickly.
To the moon
Probably the movement expression everyone wants to hear most, ‘to the moon’ is traders’ slang for a stock or asset rising in price stratospherically, often quickly. The term is only ever used for appreciating markets, not depreciating, and always in relation to a very significant climb – ‘all the way to the moon’, as it were.
Almost an opposite of ‘to the moon’, tanking refers to a stock depreciating in value, often quite significantly and quite fast. A similar term is ‘crunching’, by which traders mean a stock or an asset suddenly starts falling rapidly.
This one is not a movement on the market’s part, but rather the trader’s. When a market moves in an unfavourable position and you close out your trade, only for the market to rally into a position where you would have made a profit or at least not a loss, that is known as ‘jigged out’. As in, ‘I just jigged myself out of a profit by reading the market wrong!’
Technicalities – popular slang for trading techniques
Pump and dump
The ‘pump and dump’ is a technique used by the least ethical of market manipulators. They capitalise on a market’s positive movement by means of things like fake news or recommendations and rave reviews on that stock that they themselves have planted or fabricated. This isn’t a trading strategy, it’s fraud. Fraudsters go to jail.
A trader who deliberately goes against market sentiment or trends. It’s commonly not recommended for anyone but the most experienced of market movers – as traders say: ‘the trend is your friend.’
Looks like what it sounds like – ‘squiggly lines’ is an affectionate, tongue-in-cheek nickname for all the technical indicators that you can choose to populate your chart with as a trader. Some of these include the beloved ‘MACD’ (Moving Average Convergence Divergence) and things like Bollinger Bands.
Popular nicknames for markets and assets
Not to be confused with a man from the land down under, ‘Aussie’ is a nickname for the Australian dollar among the forex crowd and, also, for the AUD/USD currency pair
Similarly, the nickname for the New Zealand dollar in forex is a ‘kiwi’, the same nickname as the country’s inhabitants, so named after their impressively ugly indigenous bird
A nickname for the most traded currency pair in the whole world – the GBP/USD. The term allegedly comes from the cables which were once used to transact currency deals between Britain and America long ago. All we have to say is that, clearly, trading is very, very old
The nickname for the US dollar and Russian Ruble currency pair. So named because ‘Ruble’ looks like ‘Rubble’, the surname of Fred Flinstone’s best friend Barney
Can’t have Barney Rubble without his wife, Betty Rubble. Or should we say ‘Ruble’, as this is the nickname for the Euro/Ruble currency pair
The forex trading nickname for the Canadian dollar/US dollar currency pair. This is because the loon, a native Canadian bird, is the symbol on the one CAD coin
Another nickname for the AUD/USD currency pair. Presumably, it’s not supposed to sound like forex trading for pirates, but play on the fact that Australians call everyone ‘mate’
Ninja is the name for the US dollar and Japanese yen currency pair. We’d like to say that this name is a clever comment on the pair’s volatility and sudden, unforeseen market movements. But it was probably named this because ninjas are associated with Japan.
The US dollar and Swiss franc currency pairing. Yes, the ‘y’ was probably added to make it fit in with ‘loonie’ and ‘matie’
Discover hundreds more trading terms
Discover more than 200 other trader terms and insider lingo with our IG Bank Glossary. Because some things don’t just pop up in your browser…
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