The Internet can be a confusing place, even for someone who is using it every day. Because Internet language evolves every day. In fact, Internet slang words can transform language itself, so you need to know them to get by in real life.
Sure, you can look up words in online slang dictionaries, but it’s difficult to stay clued in that way. Instead, we whipped up a quick crash course of trendy Internet acronyms and phrases.
AMA: Ask Me Anything
What It Means: Ask Me Anything is a series started on Reddit, where an authority on a subject fields open questions. It is now used more widely on the Internet, with any sort of public Q&A being termed an AMA. For example:
“Hi, I am Adam Savage, co-host of Mythbusters, AMA!”
Incidentally, Savage’s AMAs have earned him a spot on our list of the best Reddit AMAs of all time.
Bae: Babe / Before Anyone Else
What It Means: Urban Dictionary says Bae is a Danish word for poop. Unfortunately, the Internet thinks it’s a term of endearment: either an acronym for “before anyone else” or a shortening of “babe”. Soon enough, pop stars Pharrell and Miley Cyrus turned it into a song, “Come get it, bae.” Sorry Danes, this is what the word means, now and forever. The good news is that most of the Internet also treats it as a term of mockery in memes and captions for images, so you can feel free to use it to be sassy. If you’re interested, Esquire has a detailed piece on the rise of bae.
when bae acts moody but u don't know what u did pic.twitter.com/IyOFEJqL5n
— Funny Tweets™ (@Lmao) July 8, 2015
DAE: Does Anyone Else?
What It Means: DAE is generally a prefix for a question, where the person asking wants to know if they are not alone in whatever they are experiencing. It’s huge on Reddit, niche forums, and discussion groups, but is not used as regularly elsewhere on the Internet. For example:
Dafuq: (What) the f***?
What It Means: The first time you see “dafuq” on the Internet, you might think it’s a legitimate word. It’s not. Pronounce it, preferably while no kids are around. Dafuq is the Internet’s way of saying WTF because apparently, the Internet-made WTF was not convenient enough. Let not the logic of five characters being better than three characters bother you, weary Internet traveller. We have a long way to go still.
Dafuq @netflix? Of course I'm "still watching"!! I am NOT HERE for your binge shaming.
— Orlando Jones (@TheOrlandoJones) July 2, 2015
DM: Direct Message
What It Means: Twitter’s Direct Message feature lets you send private messages to your friends, or receive private messages from anyone. It’s especially useful for sharing information you don’t want to post in public, like your phone number or address. “DM” is slowly becoming the default way of telling someone to message you privately, much like “PM” in the past for personal message/private message. For example:
“DM me your contact number plz!”
ELI5: Explain Like I’m 5
What It Means: When someone gives a complex explanation for an event and you need them to dumb it down for you, ask them to “explain it like I’m 5 years old”, or ELI5. Most often, it’s used to explain science or technology in layman’s terms. Big on Reddit and discussion forums, not so big on other forms. Here’s an example from Hacker News:
FML: F*** My Life
What It Means: As old as this is, it’s still used a lot. The idea is that when you go through an unfortunate event, share it with the world by tagging it with “FML”. Simple. It’s actually pretty therapeutic, especially if you want to confess your misfortunes anonymously at a place like FMyLife, which is one of the best sites to read true stories from real people.
FTFY: Fixed That For You
What It Means: This particular phrase is used in two ways. The first is literal, where if you say something that has an obvious unintentional mistake, another person on the Internet corrects it for you, adding, “FTFY.” The other way is sarcastic. For example:
Matthew says, “4 reasons vinyl is better than digital.”
Harry quips, “4 reasons digital is better than vinyl #FTFY.”
Facepalm: Short for “Ugh, idiot.”
What It Means: When someone does something stupid, instinctively, your palm hits your own face or forehead. That entire series of action is now reduced to a single word: facepalm. It can be used to convey dismay, disappointment, ridicule, or disapproval.
— Humza Yousaf (@HumzaYousaf) July 4, 2015
Headdesk: Supreme frustration
What It Means: Headdesk is the extreme facepalm. When someone says or does something monumentally idiotic, you hit your head on the desk to convey your utter loss of faith in humanity. As you flail for hope, take solace in the knowledge that at least you can express your feelings in one succinct word.
HIFW: How I Felt When
What It Means: This is another acronym that reduces the number of characters you type, giving you more space to say what you want in the 140-character limitation of Twitter. Typically, HIFW is paired with an image, video, or a hilarious reaction GIF when words aren’t enough.
HIFW I forget to pack toothpaste and don't realize until bedtime. pic.twitter.com/rtNhxs6lHF
— Amanda Jean (@RealAmanda) July 7, 2015
ICYMI: In Case You Missed It
What It Means: One of the few times the Internet tries to be polite, ICYMI is just a precaution when you aren’t sure if other people already know about something, or when you are repeating something you have said before. It’s a way of saying, “You might have already seen this, but if not, here you go.”
— Jonathan Capehart (@CapehartJ) July 8, 2015
IDGAF: I Don’t Give A F***
What It Means: It means exactly what it means in English: a crass, emphatic way of saying that you don’t care.
To my future kids: You'll start off with a flip phone. Idgaf if the iPhone 15 is out by then, you're gonna know the struggle.
— Alcohol Problems (@AIcoholProbs) July 1, 2015
IMO / IMHO: In My Opinion / In My Humble Opinion
What It Means: Another Internet classic, IMO is the safe way to express your opinions without making it sound like you are proclaiming a universal truth. IMHO is the way to do that while seeming humble, or at least pretending to. Since the Internet is always up for a debate, those are the perfect forums to use these two acronyms in. For example:
IRL: In Real Life
What It Means: The Internet is the virtual life. People often have a whole second persona online, or keep their real life neatly separated from their online life. If you want to talk about something in your real life, the qualifier “IRL” is enough to let people know. Just remember, the Internet can aid in real-life interactions.
IRL Sonic pic.twitter.com/2cAQL7gm6y
— Michael Moran (@TheMichaelMoran) July 5, 2015
JSYK: Just So You Know
What It Means: FYI, if you still use “FYI” to be sassy when schooling someone, you’re old. JSYK is the new FYI, so get with it. End of.
Jsyk if you support the removal of maintenance grants you're essentially saying folks like me shouldn't have a right to education, so bye! ????
— Jo Graham (@thejoannagraham) July 8, 2015
Lulz: Kicks (as in “For kicks”)
What It Means: Lulz is an off-shoot of LOLs*. Lulz is usually used in the form of “For the lulz”, which would be just like saying “for the kicks” or “for the laughs”. It’s a justification for whatever you’re doing or saying; the justification being that it’s for a few laughs.
"I did it for the lulz"
— Manda? (@Amanda_mariiiee) July 8, 2015
*If you need to know what LOL is, then you need a much more basic “Internet for Dummies 101” guide than this article.
MFW: My Face When
MRW: My Reaction When
MIRL: Me In Real Life
What It Means: Like HIFW, these are mainly intended as reactions coupled with photos or GIFs. They are also often used to provide a funny caption to an image of a trending topic. Of course, in the case of MFW, the image has to have someone’s face.
— Caoimhe (@CaoimheDuff) June 15, 2015
NSFW: Not Safe For Work
What It Means: If you’re at the office, you don’t want to open a link that has nudity, graphic language, or anything offensive. If the link says “NSFW”, then it’s not safe to open in an environment where someone might see it and be offended.
— E! News (@ENews) July 2, 2015
NSFL: Not Safe For Life
What It Means: In Internet lingo, NSFW is now used more for something that would be offensive in a formal environment, but would be fine if you’re around friends. NSFL usually has images, videos or content so graphic that it could be scarring for your eyes, whether around others or not.
— Science News (@TheScienceRock) July 5, 2015
PAW: Parents Are Watching
What It Means: Literally that. If kids want to avoid saying or showing something while their parents are around, PAW is a warning to the recipient. In recent times, Code 9 has been also been used instead of PAW, although it hasn’t caught on that much yet. For example:
Her: You want to send me that Snapchat?
Him: paw later
QFT: Quoted For Truth
What It Means: There are two ways this is used. First, when someone says something you agree with so vehemently that you couldn’t have said it better yourself. Second, when someone says something and you want to hold them to it in the future, as proof. For example:
A: “I gotta say, Bieber is pretty good sometimes.”
B: “QFT, I’ll remind you about this when you aren’t drunk.”
SMH: Shaking My Head
What It Means: Like headdesk and facepalm, SMH is used to convey your disappointment at someone doing or saying something utterly stupid.
— Jason Pollock (@Jason_Pollock) July 6, 2015
TBT: Throwback Thursday
What It Means: When you want to post an old photo, hold off till Thursday and tag it with #ThrowbackThursday or #TBT. It’s a sure-fire way to get more likes and comments on Instagram. While TBT is used more on Instagram than anywhere else, it has become a central part of the Internet’s lexicon and is used everywhere.
TIL: Today I Learned
What It Means: When you learn about information that isn’t new but is novel for you, share it with the world by adding a “TIL”. This is used almost everywhere on the Internet, but mainly on Reddit. In fact, the TIL sub-reddit is a great place to learn stuff every day. For example:
TIL Leonard Nimoy once gave a cab ride to JFK. The future president told the aspiring actor, “Lots of competition in your business, just like in mine. Just remember there’s always room for one more good one”.
TL;DR: Too Long; Didn’t Read
What It Means: The Internet is a treasure trove of detailed information, but sometimes, you just want the basic nugget and not read the whole thing. TL;DR or TLDR was invented to give a quick summary of the content. For example:
YMMV: Your Mileage May Vary
What It Means: In a similar situation or with a product, your experience might not be the same as someone else’s experience. The Internet has decided to make it easy to say that with “YMMV”.
Haven’t been able to verify the Apple Music vs iTunes Match DRM issue. My iTunes Match matched tracks are still DRM-free on redownload. YMMV
— Steve T-S (@stroughtonsmith) July 2, 2015
YOLO: You Only Live Once
What It Means: YOLO is a justification for doing something that you probably shouldn’t be doing, but want to do it anyway. It’s also used ironically as commentary on someone else doing something idiotic.
— Jeremy P. Beasley (@jeremypbeasley) July 2, 2015
Bonus! The Shruggie
What It Means: The humble shrug, expressed in the form of a few lines and strokes. Like this:
It can range in meaning: “whatever”, “why not”, “who knows”, “doesn’t matter”, “enh”, and almost anything else that’s a quick dismissal. The Awl’s piece on the “shruggie” or the “smugshrug” that’s worth a read if you’re more interested in this super-popular reaction emoticon.
walked 65 blocks home so i could get pizza without feeling guilty and then in the middle i got hungry and ate chipotle instead ¯_(?)_/¯
— Jessica Roy (@JessicaKRoy) May 13, 2014
What Did We Miss?
This isn’t an exhaustive list of the trendiest Internet slang, so tell us what we missed. What acronym or word did you recently come across that you had to look up on the Internet?
Image Credits: internet slang Via Shutterstock