Essential Burning Man Lingo

Interested in attending Burning Man for the first time but have no idea what MOOP is or what a burning man theme camp is? Have no fear, young Newbie. You’re about to attend the unparalleled party of a lifetime in an isolated desert, unlike anything you’ve encountered before. Ease your fears with this list of essential Burning Man lingo so you can have a safe, entertaining, and rewarding time!


Spiraling tornadoes of dust that travel the playa, produced by wind and thermal phenomena. The Paiute people believe that these dust plumes represent their ancestors’ spirits. Don’t call them “dust devils,” just don’t.

Black Rock City, or BRC

The annual, temporary metropolis created by the Burning Man community.

Burning Man

The Burn

The actual event of setting fire to the Burning Man statue. A must-see if we do say so.


The annual process of gathering leftover resources from leaving Burners for use by the event crew while they clean up.


Also called darktard, speedbump, survival-challenged, you get the idea. Basically, anyone who ventures out on the playa at night without enough lighting on the entirety of their person or vehicle.
Burning Man

Default World

Anywhere that is not Black Rock City during the Burning Man event.


A volunteer who aids other volunteer groups in the field, usually by refilling their drinking water.


Pay attention to this one. As a core doctrine of Burning Man, gifting is the act of giving something to another individual (material or otherwise) without any expectations of getting anything in return. Your cash won’t work out on the playa generally because gifting is where it’s at.


A person who is unaware of their surroundings and travels in a dream state through the playa. May need to be told that the event is over and he has to go now.


Matter Out Of Place. Basically, anything that doesn’t belong on the playa. Trash, dirty water, you name it. If you bring it to Burning Man, expect to take it with you off the playa.


Mutant Vehicles

Also known as Art Cars or Art Bikes. A dramatically, startlingly, (usually) permanently and safely transformed motorized vehicle. Licensed by the DMV (Department of Mutant Vehicles, not the one you’re thinking of), these vehicles are an integral part of the experience at Burning Man.


Anyone attending Burning Man for the first time. If you’re reading this, you might be a Newbie.


The city is surrounded by a perimeter fence all through the duration of the Burning Man event, with regulated entry and exit protocols.

Burning Man


Spanish for “beach.” It’s used to describe the dry lake beds like the ones in the Black Rock Desert.

Playa Chickens

A local myth about a rare species of aggressive, carnivorous poultry that is believed to live in the Black Rock Desert. Playa Chickens can be blamed for any strange phenomenon that is not easily attributed to a known cause.

Playa Herpes

Glitter. Save yourself the trouble and just don’t.


We recommend that you know the difference between‒
A: Black Rock City Rangers, volunteers committed to non-confrontational group mediation and peaceful public safety facilitation; and
B: Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Rangers, federal law enforcement officers.

Ten Principles

The ten core concepts of Burning Man: Radical Inclusion, Gifting, Decommodification, Radical Self-Reliance, Radical Self-Expression, Communal Effort, Civic Responsibility, Leaving No Trace, Participation, and Immediacy. Learn them, and you’ll do just fine.

Pathogen Trackers Camp

Theme Camp

A campsite that presents an idea or concept artistically and is designed to provide participants with an immersive experience.

Pathogen Trackers

Pathogen Trackers is a Burning Man theme camp that offers a unique experience. We are dedicated to serving our fellow burners by giving them what they need — whether it’s food, water, shelter, or traveling around the playa. Learn more about our mission and how to join us at this year’s event: