Texting has now been around for over 25 years and it’s estimated that 8 trillion text messages are sent globally every year. Like it or not, texting abbreviations (like the ubiquitous “LOL”) are very commonly used in messages—and not knowing their meaning can at best cause confusion and at worst get you in trouble.
And by the way, the correct terminology is “texting abbreviations”—you may have also seen “text abbreviations,” but this vaguer term is incorrect.
In the olden days before “unlimited talk and text” data plans, text messages were expensive to send and receive, and because they were limited to 160 characters per message, every character was precious.
Texting using a standard telephone keypad was also a laborious process, requiring multiple key presses per character. So mobile phone users adapted to clunky keypads and character limits by abbreviating common words and phrases.
As texting became popular, a new language of acronyms and texting abbreviations evolved and became embedded in texting and internet culture. Despite our smartphones having full keyboards, texting abbreviations are still convenient shortcuts and remain a staple in communications worldwide.
Read on for our essential list of common texting abbreviations so you don’t make the mistake of sending an “LOL” when “my deepest condolences” is the appropriate response.
BTW: By the way
CYA: See ya
“C” is often used as a stand-in for “see,” such as “CYT” (“see you tomorrow”) and “CU” (“see you”).
DM: Direct message
On social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram, a “direct message” is a private message that only the recipient can access, rather than a post that’s publicly visible.
The phrase “sliding into her/his/their DMs” (which has inspired many memes) typically refers to an admirer sending a bold or suave direct message to a stranger in order to spark a flirtation.
FTW: For the win
The exact origins of this phrase are debated—Hollywood Squares, rugby, and World of Warcraft have all been cited as popularizing it. It’s typically used as a rallying cry or as an exclamation of celebration, sometimes ironically.
FWIW: For what it’s worth
IDK: I don’t know
Similar abbreviations include “DK” (“don’t know”) and “IDC” (“I don’t care”).
ILY: I love you
IMO: in my opinion
“IMHO” (“in my humble opinion”) is another common variation.
IRL: In real life
This phrase is typically used to differentiate between online (or media) personas, and how things are in reality.
JK: Just kidding
You might genuinely use this texting abbreviation while joking around, but it’s also frequently used to indicate sarcasm.
Just finished my novel!
Just finished my novel!
LMK: Let me know
LOL: Laughing out loud
Occasionally mistaken for “Lots Of Love,” LOL is one of the most widely known texting abbreviations and has been around for almost 30 years.
Originally it was used in texting and chatting to communicate that you found something so funny that you were literally moved to laughter. Over time LOL has evolved from its original meaning and is now typically used to signal that you’re amused or even just tracking with what the other person is saying (like a virtual nod).
Me: Been waiting 30 minutes for my train, but I’m so into this novel I didn’t notice it was late! Debbie: LOL
Me: Been waiting 30 minutes for my train, but I’m so into this novel I didn’t notice it was late!
NBD: No big deal
Can be used to genuinely say that something isn’t that important, but can also be used to downplay a brag or sarcastically to show what a big deal something actually is.
NP: No problem
NSFW: Not safe for work
Can you buy more ketchup? Oh nvm, just found the bottle in the door.
Can you buy more ketchup?
Oh nvm, just found the bottle in the door.
OMG: Oh my God
A popular and long-used abbreviation, the Oxford English Dictionary has traced usage of “OMG” back to the early 1900s, but this exclamation didn’t come into common use on the internet until the 1990s.
OTOH: On the other hand
This phrase is used to compare the two sides of an argument.
OMW: On my way
ROFL: Rolling on floor laughing
This acronym is typically used when responding to something especially funny—so funny that “LOL” and “LMAO” are not enough to convey how hilarious you think it is.
SO: Significant other
TBH: To be honest
This phrase is used to indicate that you’re expressing your true opinion.
TMI: Too much information
Usually used when someone reveals information that is shocking or unpleasant in some way.
TTYL: Talk to you later
Similar variations include “TTYT” (“talk to you tomorrow”) and “TTFN (“ta-ta for now”).
YOLO: You only live once
Life is short, so why not live it up? Seize the day. Step outside of your comfort zone. Take risks. Do what’s exciting, silly, fun, or even a little dangerous.