What Does "Spice" Mean on BookTok? Here's Why You Keep Seeing the Pepper Emoji

One of BookTok's favorite terms is "spice," but what does that mean exactly? What's with all the pepper emojis? Here's the scoop.


Feb. 14 2023, Published 4:53 p.m. ET

As TikTok is a social media platform filled with many different people, it's only natural that BookTok would be filled with readers of different tastes. Whether you prefer lush fantasy worlds or soul-crushing contemporaries, BookTok is a place where readers often come together to share their favorite books.

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TikTok is also notorious for inventing its own language (who can forget the recent mascara debate?), so some users are curious about the term "spice" popping up across the website. So, what does "spice" mean on BookTok? Here's what you need to know about why users are ranking their books with these fiery pepper emojis.

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What does "spice" mean on BookTok?

What does "spice" mean on BookTok? The term is slang used in place of erotica, especially within romance novels but not limited to them. Some users have even taken to ranking books out of 5 "peppers" to rate the spiciness scale for those who are interested in reading something more hot and heavy than the typical fare.

However, it should be noted that the definition of "spice" varies. The general consensus is that anything "spicy" means it contains explicit sexual content, but readers will have to decide for themselves what levels of "spice" they're interested in.

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Source: TikTok/@wannabe.bookworm

Shockingly, not all popular books on BookTok containing spice are contemporary romances. The genre of romance-fantasy, or "romantasy," has dominated many viral TikTok books, including A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas, Neon Gods by Katee Robert, Alone With You in the Ether by Olivie Blake, Ice Planet Barbarians by Ruby Dixon, and Hooked by Emily McEntire.

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Contemporary romances are still popular, and big names in the contemporary "spice" category include Ali Hazelwood (author of The Love Hypothesis, amongst others), Punk 57 by Penelope Douglas, Twisted Lies by Ana Huang, Dating Dr. Dil by Nisha Sharma, Spanish Love Deception by Elena Armas, Get A Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert, and Delilah Green Doesn't Care by Ashley Herring Blake.

Source: TikTok/@mandysreads

In 2021, Cassidy Fitzhenry, better known as @booktok.journal, created a BookTok-specific journal for readers to buy that includes specific areas for readers to rate the "spiciness" of the book as they go along. The journal is currently available from Amazon for $12.99.

By creating slang terms, TikTok and BookTok are helping readers find more of what they want to read quickly. Don't like "spice"? You don't have to read it! The world of BookTok is an endless source of TBR inspiration.

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