What is Bling Bling?

Kate Monteith

Bling bling is a hip hop expression that refers to conspicuously gaudy or ostentatious jewelry. The word “bling” is meant to evoke the brilliant flash of fine diamonds and precious metals. First coined by rap artists sometime in the late 1990s, "bling bling" became a popular way to describe flashy watches, rings, necklaces, and even tooth caps. Today, the expression is considered somewhat passé among those with authentic hip hop style, although ostentatious jewelry is still in fashion.

A ring with many diamonds might be considered bling.
A ring with many diamonds might be considered bling.

Flashy necklaces may be considered bling bling.
Flashy necklaces may be considered bling bling.

Jewelry described as bling bling is often completely over-the-top, befitting someone who has money to burn. Rings, necklaces and watches are encrusted with precious stones that dazzle and shine, blatantly advertising the wealth of the wearer. In the extravagant lifestyle of hip hop rap artists, wearing a bling watch, bling ring or bling necklace has become de rigueur. Wearing all three at once is even more common.

Some rappers wear bling bling.
Some rappers wear bling bling.

"Bling bling" is a hip hop term referring to ostentatious jewelry.
"Bling bling" is a hip hop term referring to ostentatious jewelry.

There is some debate among rappers as to the origin of the expression bling bling. Lil Wayne of Cash Money Millionaires is believed to have made the first recorded reference to the single word “bling.” He used it in a rap song called "Millionaire Dream" on the 1998 album How Ya Luv That by Big Tymers. Lil Wayne later boasted of originating the word in another rap song, Hollywood Divorce by OutKast.

Some rappers wear bling bling with a great deal of style, such as rap artist Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs and hip hop singer Mary J. Blige. Other people prefer an in-your-face approach, with huge, looping chains of gold bling necklaces and rings on every finger. Rapper Flava Flav was one of the first to wear bling on his teeth, a popular item known in the hip hop world as a grill. Bling bling isn’t always jewelry, however; it can apply to a bejeweled walking cane, a chalise or cup, the faceplate on a cell phone, or any overly-embellished personal item.

Baby bling is one of the offshoots of the bling jewelry industry. Bling bling for babies is considered by many to be the ultimate show of wealth. Mothers who indulge in hip hop fashion can find jewel-encrusted baby rattles and mink baby blankets, with prices in the stratosphere. One website advertises a baby bottle swathed in Swarovski crystals and personalized with baby’s name for $225 US Dollars. For the truly discriminating parent, there are jewelers who make baby bling with real diamonds and precious metals, such as gold, silver and platinum, costing many thousands of dollars.

A wealthy person may be described as having a lot of bling.
A wealthy person may be described as having a lot of bling.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


Dolly my baby (remix) supercat with puff daddy and notorious big in 1993 when "bling bling" appeared.


It's interesting how a word that fills in a gap in the language manages to spread so quickly. I can remember back when bling wasn't a word and people wouldn't know what bling bling watches meant.

But now, there is even a cheap jewelry store called Bling in my city and I have heard my New Zealander mother use the term without being ironic about it.

There wasn't really a good term for that kind of overt decadence (or the fake emulation of that decadence, which is what I associate with the word) before someone came up with bling bling.

It's kind of like the word "OK" which is relatively new also, but is now used all over the world.

It's just the perfect word for what it describes, so everyone easily slips into using it.


I hope those baby rattles have the diamonds glued down securely! Babies don't know or care what their toys are made from, they'll chew on anything.

I think it is amazing that people will wear bling bling jewelry and grills in particular at the expense of their health. I've heard that grills are really terrible for your teeth, and can loosen them and chip them if you wear it too often. It is an awful lot of hard metal and stones to be wearing next to your soft gums.

But, worse is the people who try to imitate stars and buy second rate grills. Those haven't got any kind of guarantee on them, and probably weren't made with any kind of health or safety in mind.

It seems like the worst thing you could do if you care about what people think of you is to ruin your teeth.

Post your comments
Forgot password?