A little over a decade ago, the slang term based emerged to refer to a quality of not caring about what others think of you. That meaning comes from the rapper Lil B, who sometimes went by the nickname TheBasedGod. Here, based was reclaimed from an existing colloquialism meaning "addicted to crack cocaine" - that's from the noun freebase, which was a chemical term for the conjugate base form of an amine that was mainly used to refer to cocaine prepared through freebasing. Finally, freebase is just from free (indicating that the compound has no ionic bond) and base (indicating that it has a pH greater than 7). In the present, based has simultaneously been appropriated by online meme communities to serve as an antonym of cringe and by the alt-right to serve as an antonym of woke.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.