Burning Man is its own world, which means it has it’s own culture and lingo. Here’s a glossary of the most common terms you’ll hear at the Burn:
10 PRINCIPLES: The guidelines of Burning Man and Burner culture. These are: Radical Inclusion, Gifting, Decommodification, Radical Self-reliance, Radical Self-expression, Communal Effort, Civic Responsibility, Leaving No Trace, Participation, and Immediacy. (all defined below)
ARCTICA: Where you buy ice. Located outside Center Camp and at the 3 & 9 o’clock portals. Ice blocks & bags are sold from 9am to 6pm Monday through Sunday & 9am until Noon on Labor Day.
ART CARS: Regular cars aren’t allowed on the Playa, but vehicles transformed into art are. These “Mutant Vehicles” are decorated beyond recognition from their base vehicles and often contain large sound systems and DJs (i.e. Robot Heart, Titanic’s End, and the late Mayan Warrior)
ARTery: The art & artist’s HQ at the Burn. This center has all of the information about official artworks at the burn.
AVENUES: The straight streets named after the hours on an analog clock face, from 2 to 10. These cross the curved Streets, which are named alphabetically. Addresses are referred by Avenue & Street name (i.e. 2:30 & E or 9:05 & J, if someone wants to be specific.)
BLACK ROCK CITY (BRC): The temporary city of Burning Man, named for the Black Rock Desert that it’s on.
BLM: “Bureau of Land Management” is a Federal agency in charge of the land Burning Man is held on. That means Burning Man is under FEDERAL LAW as well as Nevada State Law so there will be Federal law enforcement as well.
BMIR: Burning Man’s Radio channel, 94.5 FM, featuring a vast spectrum of music and information about lineups, storms, and emergencies.
BMOrg/ THE ORG: Is what the the non-profit organization that runs the Burn is known as, due to the URL of their website. Their actual name is “The Burning Man Project.”
BOX OFFICE: A.k.a. Will Call. If you bought tickets outside of the US, have issues with your tickets, or are picking up a low-income ticket, you’ll need to park your vehicle and go to the Box Office before continuing on to the gate. Even if only one person in your vehicle has a ticket at the Box Office, everyone has to park and wait for them before you can enter.
BIRGIN/ BURGIN: A first time Burner.
BURNER: A person who lives the Burn lifestyle, on and off the playa.
BURN NIGHT: Saturday night when the Man burns. The climax of the festival has fire dancing, all the art cars, and an impressive amount of pyrotechnics.
CENTER CAMP: Before 2022, this was a coffee shop and central hub of the burn. Physically, it’s still at the center of town, even though they no longer serve coffee here. You will find an open mic, acro yoga, and bulletins here. You’ll still find Lost & Found, Recycle Camp, and Volunteer Resources just outside Center Camp.
CIVIC RESPONSILBILITY: One of the 10 principles. You are part of the festival, so when you throw your event/ create something participatory, take responsibility for the safety and welfare of people who come. That means, if you’re giving away grilled cheese sandwiches (or whatever), follow basic food safety guidelines. If you have an open bar, check IDs. If you’re hosting an orgy, make sure attendees know about & are practicing consent.
COLLEXODUS: Where you donate your unused non-perishable food, water & booze as you leave Burning Man. These supplies nourish the clean-up crews after the event.
COMMUNAL EFFORT: One of the 10 principles. Join in the effort and be part of the community because collaboration and cooperation co-creates magic.
DARKWAD: Someone who isn’t wearing any lights at night, becoming a hazard to every other bike and art car on the playa.
DECOMMODIFICATION: One of the 10 principles, this policy keeps the Playa advertisement and sponsor-free. Your experience & gifts should be non-transactional. Avoid flashing brand names.
DEEP PLAYA: The part of the desert farthest from the city. Akin to being on the moon. Home to the trash fence & the occasional Daft Punk performance.
DEFAULT WORLD: The regular world/ your life outside of the festival.
DEPARTMENT OF MUTANT VEHICLES (DMV): Like the Default World’s DMV, this department approves all art cars, making sure they are safe, their base vehicle is unrecognizable, and other criteria of accreditation. Your art car needs a DMV permit to drive on the playa.
DPW: Department of Public Works. The Mad Max-styled workforce who build the infrastructure of Burning Man. Known for their hard drinking, hard work, and surly attitudes.
DUST ANGEL: Like a snow angel only dustier. Birgins are encouraged to do a dust angel at the gate to embrace the inevitability of getting dusty.
ESPLANADE: The innermost ring of the city. The Main Street of the festival.
EXODUS: The often grueling lineup to leave the festival. This happens when multiple lanes of traffic merge into one lane on the main road. Exodus usually employs “pulsing” (see below) where they stop and start traffic. Be prepared with food and water.
FAST: Fire Arts Safety Team which supports artists who use fire in their art.
FIRE CONCLAVE: The group of fire dancers who perform on Burn Night and throughout the week. Also great people to talk to if you’re interested in dancing with fire.
FLUFFERS: The volunteers who support the volunteers. Fluffers bring water, food, sunscreen, and the occasional cocktail to artists, staff, and volunteers working in the hot sun.
GATE, THE: The entrance to the burn, found many miles from the start of the lineup. This is also the final checkpoint for stowaways & contraband. You’ll need a ticket to get through the gate.
GAYBORHOOD: The area of BRC where the most popular gay camps are, including: Pink Mammoth, Glam Cocks, Gender Blender, Comfort & Joy, Camp Beaverton, and more.
GIFTING: The burn runs on the gift economy. You gift, create, and serve selflessly (without expecting anything in return). This is why the playa is full of free booze, food, music, and art. The only place that takes money is Arctica (and the porto-potty guys you bribe to service your RV.)
GREETERS: Volunteers who welcome you at the gate and officiate the sacred Birgin Ritual of rolling in the dust and ringing a bell.
GREY WATER: The water from your washing that CANNOT BE POURED ON THE PLAYA. Not to be confused with Black Water, which is from your toilet, if you have one. You can bribe the porto potty guys to syphon both kinds of water away for you. Just flag them down and offer them money.
HEXAYURT: A reflective yurt-like structure which stays cool-ish during the hot day and warm-ish during the cold nights. It’s a public domain design which can be made for about $500.
HOME: What Burners call Burning Man. You’ll hear “Welcome Home” often in the first couple days of the burn.
HUMAN CAR WASH: Dr. Bronners (though they never advertise their brand to comply with the principle of “Decommodification”) hosts a foam bath every year Wednesday – Saturday. Dance naked to world-class DJs, then climb (still naked) into a shipping container packed with other burners, then be hosed off in foam and water.
IMMEDIACY: Now is the only time there is. For me, this is the most important of the 10 principles. Be present. Don’t wait to participate.
KIDSVILLE: A family-friendly village of theme camps which is quieter, shares childcare & is geared to kids.
LAMPLIGHTERS: The volunteers who light the 1,000+ kerosene lanterns at sunset & take them down at dawn. They wear matching white tunics and begin this ritual at 4pm every day of the burn. Enquire at the Volunteer Resources.
LEAVE NO TRACE: One of the 10 principles. Clean up after yourself, respect the environment, and, as much as possible at a festival that runs on propane and plastic LED lights, be earth-friendly. Through an intense amount of volunteer and communal effort, Burning Man leaves the desert as it found it each year: MOOP-free (see below)
MAN, THE: The icon, logo, and center of the burn. This giant man-shaped effigy is burned Saturday night. It’s also a handy landmark to help you find your way.
MONKEY HUT: An inexpensive and wind-proof shade structure made of PVC tubing and a tarp.
MOOP: “Matter Out Of Place” is anything other than dust that’s left on the playa. It’s litter, lost items, and your fake eyelashes that flew off in the windstorm. It’s expected that every burner helps keep the Playa MOOP-free.
MUGGLE: Someone who hasn’t been to Burning Man and so doesn’t believe in serendipity, miracles, nor the magic of human connection.
PARTICIPATION: One of the 10 principles. Join in without waiting for an invitation. It’s up to you to invite yourself and create something you want to see at the festival.
PLACEMENT: Aka, your camp’s address. All official camps have an assigned place and space on the map.
PLATINA/ PLAYAFICATION: That residue of alkaline dust left on everything after the burn. Hard to get off but vinegar/ citric acid help.
PLAYA: The Spanish word for “Beach” has become the name for the Black Rock Desert.
PLAYA FOOT: Dry, cracked feet and cuticles that can happen from going barefoot in the super-alkaline dust.
PLAYA NAME: A nickname bestowed upon you at the Burn. This name may help you shed your ego and personality of the Default World. Some people, forever changed by their experience, even go by their playa name in the default world.
PLAZA: Public Squares at 3:00, 6:00 center camp, and 9:00. These usually have essential services/camps, such as Arctica and Ranger Stations.
PLUG ‘&’N PLAY CAMP: A luxury camp where everything is set up for you: shelter, food, bikes, showers, etc. Tend to have high camp fees and tech bros.
PROPANE PARTY: The last party on the night of Labor Day, where artists and art cars use up the last of their propane and show off new fire projects.
PULSING: To limit the amount of traffic congestion, exhaust created, and fuel consumed in the long lines exiting the burn, cars are “pulsed” with gaps of up to an hour. Turn off your engine when they are pulsing lanes. And try not to fall asleep between pulses.
RADICAL INCLUSION: One of the 10 principles. Everyone is invited. Welcome the stranger. Though this doesn’t always happen in practice, there should be no VIP sections at this festival.
RADICAL SELF-EXPRESSION: One of the 10 principles. Dress how you wanna dress, dance how you wanna dance, and create art to express your true self… as long as you aren’t hurting or endangering anyone else by doing you.
RADICAL SELF-RELIANCE: One of the 10 principles. Come prepared. It’s a harsh environment so make sure you have all you need to survive and thrive out there. Don’t be a sparkle pony (see below).
RANGER: There are 2 kinds of Rangers at Burning Man: the BLM Rangers who work federally, and the BRC Rangers, who are volunteers unrelated to law enforcement. The BRC Rangers are here to support Burners. If you or someone you’re with is in distress, ask for a BRC Ranger, especially if substances are involved, instead of going to the police.
REBAR: Steel bars used to anchor anything and everything into the playa. There can be strong winds which your regular tent peg won’t hold up to. Use gloves when handling rebar to prevent steel splinters.
REGIONALS: Burning Man-inspired festivals or mini burns held with the same 10 principles.
ROD’S ROAD: The circular ring road around Center Camp, named for Rod Garrett, city designer.
RV FORTRESS: A plug ‘n play camp which makes no effort to contribute to the Burn.
SAFETY THIRD: A popular saying which implies, while safety is important, fun/ love/ joy is more important.
SHERPA: Someone who drives supplies & RVs into BRC for plug ‘n play camps.
SHIRTCOCKING: The once-popular men’s fashion of wearing a shirt and no bottoms. Known as Clam Glamming or Daisy Ducking for women, this look has nearly disappeared in recent years due to a new more fashionable demographic. I’m not upset about the loss.
SOLIFUGE/ WIND SCORPIONS: Some of the only non-human animals in Black Rock Desert, these insects are harmless & come out just after dark.
SOUND CAMP: These mega camps have mega sound systems (often on wheels), and world-class DJs. Some of the loudest and biggest are: Opulent Temple, Robot Heart, and Question Mark. Usually Often located along 10 & 2.
SPARKLE PONY: A non-participatory attendee there to wear outfits for the ‘Gram.
TEMPLE, THE: This non-religious temple is the spiritual center of the burn. Ceremonies are held here, tears are shed here, meditations happen here, loved ones are mourned here. Before it burns on Sunday night, the walls will be covered in messages and memorials.
TEMPLE GUARDIAN: A volunteer at the temple who holds space. Recognized by a thin blue bracelet and a zen presence.
TRASH FENCE: The outer perimeter’s orange mesh fence which catches some of the airborne MOOP, keeping the rest of the desert litter-free.
ZENDO: A camp and facilitation program to help people going through challenging psychedelic trips.