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Abbreviations and Slang Used
While Talking on the Internet

A great deal of communication on the Internet consists of people typing messages to one another — texting, email, and Twitter, as well as Facebook, Usenet articles, instant messaging, IRC, chat rooms, discussion groups, and so on.

There are also a number of widely used communication conventions that are useful to know, for example, hashtags, or the spelling words with as few characters as possible (r u 4 rl?). You will also encounter a lot of slang, much of which is created by young people, who have always felt the need to communicate differently from their parents.

In a similar vein, there are many common abbreviations and acronyms, which are used both as slang and to save time when texting or tweeting. I have collected the most important ones in the table below.

The Internet has always been a source of technology inspired slang. Even back in the early 1980s, Internet users had their own particular argot and abbreviations. Some of these terms eventually find their way into a more enduring part of the culture, where they are used for years by people of all ages.


Hashtags originated on Twitter, where they were first used to create "groupings", that is, to mark a tweet with a certain code, for example #politics. At any time, it is easy for someone to search for all the tweets that contain this specific hashtag.

The name comes from the # character, a hash mark or hash. You will also see this character referred to as "number" (number sign) or "pound" (pound sign).

Today, hashtags are used widely outside the Twitter environment. You will often see them used by people to inject short comments into a conversation. For example, someone might text a friend:

got a promotion today #happy

People also use hashtags is spoken conversation by saying the word "hashtag" or "pound" or "number". For example, you are having coffee with your best friend who says, "I met this new guy hashtag cool."

Another example: a college student might say, "I can't stand my biology class number sucks."

Hash mark trivia: The # character has had a large number of different names over the years. In the early 1960s, when the hash mark was first added to telephone keypads in the U.S., the telephone company referred to it as an "octothorpe".


In addition to abbreviations and acronyms, you will commonly see people use a smiley. This indicates that what the person is saying should not be taken as offensive. Here are the three most common smileys:




(To see the smiling faces, tilt your head sideways to the left. Notice that the last smiley is winking.)

Use a smiley whenever you think you have said something that the other person might find offensive. For example:

Don't worry, we can't all be smart and good- looking :-)

Smileys are especially useful when you want to say something sardonic, such as a devastating observation, wrought with irony, that a lesser mind might interpret as criticism:

Your dress is lovely. My mother used to have one just like it when she was a kid :-)

You will sometimes see <grin> or <g> used instead of a smiley. Thus, all of the following examples have the same meaning:

We can't all be smart and good-looking :-)
We can't all be smart and good-looking :)
We can't all be smart and good-looking ;-)
We can't all be smart and good-looking <grin>
We can't all be smart and good-looking <g>

Although you will see many people use <grin>, my advice is to avoid it. Smileys are more abstract, and, hence, make you look subtle and intelligent. Typing <grin> just makes you look goofy.

Expressing Emotions

Being a man, I understand how important it is to express your emotions, so please allow me to share.

On the Net, there is a convention that, while talking, you put words that describe an emotion within angled brackets, < >, in order to set the words off from regular text. For example, say you are in a Web chat room talking with someone at work about the new artichoke crop in Venezuela. All of a sudden, the boss walks into your friend's office, so your friend types:

BRB, boss <grumble>

(BRB means "be right back".)

You may also see asterisk characters * * used instead of < >. For instance, when your friend gets back to the keyboard, he types:

Gotta leave *sigh*.
I have to collate 1000 copies of the company's
"Employee Guidelines for Proper Internet Usage".

To which you reply:


(ROFL means "rolling on the floor laughing".)

List of Abbreviations

You will find that some abbreviations are used only in certain contexts. For example, you will generally see Objoke only in Usenet humor groups (where a person posting a message has included an "obligatory joke"), while BRB would be used when two people are chatting and one tells the other he must leave for a moment, but will "be right back". If you are a beginner, don't worry about the nuances — it won't take long to catch on.

Note: Although I have written the abbreviations in upper case (for example, ROFL) to make then easier to read, much of the time you will see them written in lower case (rofl), which is easier to type.

— hint for parents and teachers —

You will notice that a few of the words in list below are swear words.

I have included them because I want you to know what your kids mean when they use these abbreviations.

Master List of Abbreviations

Abbreviation Meaning
#comment a short remark, often ironic
#topicname of a specific topic
;-)winking smiley
:-Osurprised smiley
:-Pdisgusted smiley (with tongue sticking out)
:-Pexcited smiley (with tongue sticking out)
A/S/Lwhat is your age, sex, and location?
AFAIKas far as I know
AFKaway from keyboard
BI'm back
BBFNbye bye for now
BBLbe back later
BFDbig fuckin' deal
BFNbye for now
BGbig grin
BObrain overload
BRBbe right back
BTWby the way
CMIIWcorrect me if I'm wrong
CUsee you
CUL8Rsee you later
CULsee you later
CYAsee ya (good-bye)
EGevil grin
F2Fface to face (in person)
FAQfrequently asked question list
FIIOOHforget it. I'm out of here
FITBfill in the blank
FOFLMAOfalling on the floor laughing my ass off
FRPfantasy role playing
FUBARfucked up beyond all recognition
FWIWfor what it's worth
FYIfor your information
G2GI've got to go
Ggrin (same as a smiley)
GALget a life
GD&Rgrinning, ducking and running
GGgood game (if playing an online game)
GRINgrin (same as a smiley)
HBhurry back
HTHI hope this helps
IANALI am not a lawyer
ICI see
ICin character (while role playing)
ICWUMI see what you mean
IIRCif I remember correctly
IMinstant message (can be a verb)
IMHOin my humble opinion
IMNSHOin my not so humble opinion
IMOin my opinion
IOWin other words
IRLin real life
JKjust kidding
L8R(see you) later
LDRlong distance relationship
LMAOlaughing my ass off
LOLlaughing out loud
MOTASmember of the appropriate sex
MOTOSmember of the opposite sex
MOTSSmember of the same sex
NMnever mind
NPno problem
Ob-(as a prefix) obligatory
Objokeobligatory joke
OICoh, I see
OMGoh, my God!
OOCout of character (while role playing)
OSoperating system
OTOHon the other hand
PAWparents are watching
PDApublic display of affection
PMprivate message
POVpoint of view
RLreal life
ROFLrolling on the floor laughing
ROTFLrolling on the floor laughing
ROTFLMAOrolling on the floor laughing my ass off
RPGrole playing game
RTFMread the fuckin' manual (before asking a question)
SOsignificant other
TMItoo much information
TTFNta-ta for now (good-bye)
TTYLtalk to you later
TTYStalk to you soon
TYthank you
TYVMthank you very much
WBwelcome back
WTFwho the fuck?/what the fuck?/why the fuck?
WU?what's up?
WUF?where are you from?