The Ick is slang for the moment someone pictures or sees the person they’re dating do something that makes them undesirable. Though the term has been used since, at least, the mid-90s, it grew in popularity after its use during a 2017 episode of Love Island and became a popular subject on TikTok in June 2020.
On May 4th, 1995, a Friends episode titled “The one with the Ick Factor” aired and features the character Monica finding out her boyfriend is a high school student. On January 11th, 2004, Sex in the City aired the episode “The Ick Factor” that dealt with a similar feeling. The first mentions of the ick online appeared on Twitter following an episode of Love Island in 2017. On June 13th, Twitter user @sophiejohn03 tweeted about the episode saying, “olivia’s just described that so well the ick ruins everything forever” (shown below). The tweet gained over 150 likes in three years.
On June 16th, 2017, Urban Dictionary user bbbbbx defined “The Ick” as:
You could be on the chirpse with a guy or girl, everything seems to be going fine.. you THINK you like them but then you suddenly catch ‘The Ick’. From then on you can’t look at the person in the same way, you just progressively get more and more turned off by them, weirdly & maybe for no reason in particular grossed out by them. You’ll cringeeeeee at the thought of you and them together. Nothing will be the same, you won’t be able to do it any longer and eventually have to cut it off.- Ideology curtesy of Olivia from Love Island:)
The definition garnered over 274 upvotes in three years. In June 2020, various TikTokers began discussing the ick in videos using the hashtag #theick. On June 15th, TikToker fizzzabella described her significant other liking milk as the ick for her (shown below, left). On June 28th, TikToker ughitsjessy shared her favorite responses of what gives people the ick (shown below, center). The video accumulated over 16,600 likes in a month. On July 13th, TikToker tommirose explained a way to give yourself the ick in a video that received over 2,400 likes in a month (shown below, right). Various media outlets like The Tab, Independent, Refinery29, Cosmopolitan and StayHipp published articles on the ick.