These days, the use of internet slang and SMS (texting) language is extremely common and they are constantly changing (not unlike real languages). You don’t have to read very deep into a website to find these familiar looking three or four letter abbreviations. However, for many people, these abbreviations can be very confusing. My parents, despite being native English speakers, still don’t have a complete grasp on many of these expressions and abbreviations.
The use of these abbreviations to replace longer words or expressions has a few roots. When cellphone companies first started offering SMS (short messaging service), there was a limit on how long the messages could be. People started using SMS language to minimize both the cost of sending texts, as well as the effort of typing. Similarly, due to abbreviations making typing a quicker process, people started to use abbreviations for common expressions on the internet.
I’d like to outline a list of commonly used abbreviations and expressions that people often use on the internet and when sending text messages (texts). This is not a complete or exhaustive list by any means; it is simply intended to provide an idea of the nuances behind these frequently used abbreviations. If there are any useful ones that I have missed, feel free to leave a comment below!
1. lol – Laughing out loud
“lol” is probably the most famous and commonly used internet slang expression. It is often used in response to someone saying something funny or when you are joking around. Just by adding “lol”, one can give off a lighthearted or joking vibe. It is sometimes hard to convey things like sarcasm when talking on the internet, which is where using “lol” can come in handy. By adding “lol”, a comment or sentence becomes significantly less serious and it can help the reader realize that what is being said is likely a joke. You don’t have to literally laugh out loud to use “lol”; you will find that some people use it at almost any occasion (even instead of punctuation).
Jerry: I was thinking of learning how to use nanchakus after seeing that Bruce Lee movie the other day lol
Tom: lol… you’re kinda weird
2. lmfao/Lmao- Laughing my f*cking ass off/ laughing my ass off
This is similar to “lol” in some ways. Like “lol”, it is used when someone says something funny. Personally I would use “lmfao” over “lol” in a situation where I am literally laughing out loud. “lmfao” has a stronger connotation than “lol”, so people generally use it in response to something that they find particularly funny.
Luke: Did you hear Michael Jackson’s nose fell off again?!?
Han: hahaha lmfao that’s so funny!
3. rofl – Rolling on the floor laughing
“rofl” is basically used in the same situations as “lmfao” and “lmao”. It has also spawned the word “roflcopter” (rofl + helicopter) which is just another stupid way to say “rofl”.
Frodo: looool I just called my English professor mom by accident…
Sam: ROFL!!! Man you’re such an idiot lol
Note: "looool" is a form of “lol” - the more ‘o’s, the funnier something is!
4. wtf/ wth – what the f*ck/ what the hell
You can use this expression when you are confused, surprised or are feeling strongly about something. Any expression that uses “what” can immediately be made stronger by using “what the fuck” or “what the hell”. If you said “what the fuck are you doing!?” instead of “what are you doing?!” it has the same basic meaning but with a strong emphasis.
Felipe: I’ve been thinking I might wanna drop out of school and join the circus lol
Saburra: wtf… are you serious?
Notice that in this situation Saburra could alternately have said “what?!” and the sentence would have retained the same basic meaning. You can think of “wtf/wth” as a stronger form of “what”.
5. brb – be right back
You would use this if you need to leave the keyboard, or if you know that you will not be able to reply back to someone for a short period of time.
Audrey: brb think I hear the pizza delivery guy at the door
6. g2g – got to go
If you ever need to end a conversation or need to go to do something else, you can use this expression before leaving.
Franny: anyways g2g man, I gotta give my hamster a bath
7. ttyl- talk to you later
This is usually used when you say goodbye to someone.
Franny: anyways g2g man, I gotta give my hamster a bath
Trav: alright have fun with that buddy, ttyl
8. cya – see you
This is used as a farewell.
Mom: I g2g walk the dog ttyl Courts
Courtney: ok cya mom!
9. imho /imo- in my humble opinion/in my opinion
You can use “imo” whenever you would say “in my opinion” , it’s quite a bit faster to type.
Elvis: imo salsa is better than ketchup on hamburgers
Be careful how you use ‘imho’ since it can seem sarcastic. Try looking on the internet to see how other English speakers use it first.
10. smh – shaking my head
Obviously, when you are talking via text or internet chat, the person you are talking to cannot actually see you. “Shaking my head” would refer to shaking my head in amazement as opposed to shaking my head to mean yes or no. “smh” is often used when someone says or does something that is questionable or strange.
Romeo: I saw a man kick a dog today! Isn’t that brutal?
Juliet: smh… can you believe people these days?
11. hahaha - laughing (obviously…)
It is interesting to note that laughing online is different in different languages. Just for fun, here is how “hahaha” is typed in other languages.
Japanese: www or 笑
Chinese (Mandarin): 哈哈 or 呵呵
Hebrew: xà xà xà or חָה־חָה־חָה
Smileys are an often overlooked part of language. However, on the internet(or when texting), the simple addition of a smiley can change the meaning of a sentence completely!
(A face sticking out its tongue; it’s used when joking around)
(This is not really common, but I think it’s kind of funny. It’s supposed to look like a man bending down on his hands and knees apologizing. The head is the “o” the “r” is the arm and the “z” is the rest of the body with the knees bent. Can you see it?)
I hope that this article helped shed some light on some commonly used internet abbreviations and expressions. Did I miss any good ones? Know any cool smileys? What would you add to the list? If there are any abbreviations that you would like to know how to use, feel free to leave a comment below - I (or someone else) can probably help you out!
Hero Image by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra (CC BY 2.0)