The word tjej, pronounced a bit like 'shay', can refer to a young woman or to somebody's girlfriend (much like the male equivalent, kille). It can also be used in compound nouns, for example tjejkväll ('girls' night'), tjejmilen (the name of an annual running competition in Stockholm) or hästtjej (a girl who really likes horses).
This word comes from Scandoromani, the language of the North Germanic Romani people, where it means 'daughter' and is spelled čhai, the female version of čhavo, boy.
The Swedish Academy dictionary dates it back to 1851, but when it was first incorporated into Swedish slang, the term was used to refer to young working class women. It then morphed into a term for teenage girls, before taking on a more general meaning for a young woman.
An article from the DN newspaper in 1929 recommends that “in a children's novel” it is preferable to speak of an ungmö ('young maiden') or flicka ('girl') than a tjej. Today, the word is commonly used by most Swedes and is not considered to be vulgar slang.
There is no clear line demarcating when someone ceases to be a tjej and becomes a kvinna ('woman') and feminist debates sometimes criticize when adult women are referred to, or refer to themselves, as tjejer when men of the same age would be called män ('men') and not killar.
Min tjej och jag har köpt hus
My girlfriend and I have bought a house