‘Neurospicy’ meaning explored as TikTok lingo floods Twitter

Bruno Cooke November 30, 2022
‘Neurospicy’ meaning explored as TikTok lingo floods Twitter
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The “neurospicy” hashtag has a total of 30.6 million views on TikTok, as of November 30, 2022 – what is its meaning, and how have people been applying it in social media conversations about mental health since its popularization?

“Can someone explain to me what ‘neurospicy’ means?” asked a Reddit user in late June this year.

“Judging by the other comments,” reads one of the more recent responses, “nobody has a clue.”

New words, whether they be compound words, portmanteaus or entirely original neologisms, get their meanings from a combination of how people use them and what their constituent parts mean, and “neurospicy” appears to be no different. So, here’s what we can glean.

Photo Illustration by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

What is the meaning of ‘neurospicy’ in online discussions around neurobehavior?

“Neurospicy” is a portmanteau – meaning a word that blends the sounds and meanings of two others – consisting of the combining form (similar to a prefix) “neuro-” and the word “spicy.”

Words that begin with “neuro-” have to do with the nervous system, or specific nerves. People call it a “combining form” because you use it to form words. Examples include “neuroscience” (the scientific study of the nervous system) and “neurological” (relating to the anatomy, functions and disorders of nerves and the nervous system).

“Spicy,” as it’s currently used, has three main distinct meanings: containing strong flavors from spices, “lively, spirited,” and “piquant, racy.” Collins Dictionary adds “interesting,” to the second. 

Taken literally, therefore, this suggests the meaning of the combination word “neuro-spicy” is something like displaying “lively” or “interesting” neurological characteristics.

In modern Neurological Research Laboratory. EEG animation on monitor screen.

Understanding how online usage of ‘neurospicy’ could be defining its meaning in real time

Reading combination words entirely literally is only useful up to a point. Context counts for a lot, and it can be useful to think about how a particular word came into existence. A lot can also depend on how people use a word in practice.

Incidences of the word “neurospicy” online, particularly on social media, over the last few months, weeks and days appear to have come up mostly in conversations about neurodivergence.

“Neurodivergent” is a non-medical term that describes people whose “brain develops or works differently for some reason.”

Possible “differences” include “medical disorders, learning disabilities and other conditions,” writes Cleveland Clinic. Strengths of neurodivergence can include “better memory, being able to mentally picture three-dimensional (3D) objects easily, [and] the ability to solve complex mathematical calculations.”

How people are using the word ‘neurospicy’ in conversations about neurodivergence

“Spicy” implies an exciting mixture of different things. And, as one Reddit user writes, “neurospicy” is “a loose term to describe neurodivergent people.”

“Often,” they add, coming to understand one’s own mental health can involve discovering “several traits or symptoms.” 

It is, therefore, at least in this Internet user’s opinion, a “fun, inclusive term.”

“It’s just a fun self-descriptor for NDs,” writes another. Note: the acronym “ND” in this context means “neurodivergent person.” “I call myself ‘neurospicy’ all the time. I first heard it being used by some of the ND content creators on the [Internet].”

Others have suggested it has to do with having a degree of neurodivergence, but not diverting from “neurotypical” sufficiently to be diagnosable with any specific neurological disorder or condition.

How have people responded to the neologism?

“Don’t refer to me as anything else ever,” one Twitter user wrote on the platform on Tuesday (November 29, 2022). They appear to be a fan of the term.

Another tweeted explicitly that they “love the term ‘neurospicy’ so much.”

“I’m still loving ‘neurosparkly,’” a third added. The intended meanings of “neurospicy” and “neurosparkly” are likely similar – differing in terms of how the brain works, but not in a way that the user has a specific label for.

Note: “neurodivergent” is a way to describe people without using words like “normal” and “abnormal,” because as Cleveland Clinic notes, “there’s no single definition of ‘normal’ for how the human brain works.”

“Is Wednesday Addams a ‘neurospicy’ character?” tweeted one Internet user on Tuesday. “Are we having this conversation already?” Apparently, we are.

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Bruno Cooke has been a freelance journalist since 2019, primarily with GRV Media. He was an early contributor to The Focus, and has written for HITC, Groundviews and the Sheffield University newspaper – he earned his MA in Global Journalism there in 2021. He’s the Spoken Word Poetry Editor for The Friday Poem, and self-published his debut novel Reveries in 2019, which his mum called both a “fine read” and “excellent Christmas present”. Bruno has lived in China, Sri Lanka and the Philippines and likes, among other things: bicycle touring, black and white Japanese films, pub quizzes, fermentation and baklava. In 2023, Bruno will set off with his partner on a round-the-world cycle.