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The language of the internet evolves on a daily basis. Which means the internet can be a confusing place, even for someone who is using it every day. In fact, modern internet slang words have transformed language, so it’s crucial to learn the common phrases. (Here’s a useful one to begin with: breaking the internet.)
Sure, you could refer to 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.
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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:
“DAE use the condensation from their fast food beverage container to clean their hands when a sink is not readily available?”
4. Dafuq: (What) the F***?
— The Wub Daddy (@srsly_dafuq) October 16, 2018
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 the internet-made WTF was not already short enough.
By the way, don’t confuse WTF for TFW, which is another popular acronym.
5. 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!”
6. 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. This is big on Reddit, but not so big on other forums. Here’s an example from Hacker News.
7. 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.
8. 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:
Mike says, “Android is far better than iOS”.
Stuart replies, “iOS is far better than Android #FTFY.”
9. Facepalm: “You Can’t Be That Dumb”
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.
10. 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.
11. HIFW: How I Feel/Felt When
HIFW I forget to pack toothpaste and don't realize until bedtime. pic.twitter.com/rtNhxs6lHF
— RealAmanda (@RealAmanda) July 7, 2015
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 reaction GIF when words aren’t enough.
12. 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.”
13. IDGAF: I Don’t Give A F***
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
What It Means: A crass, emphatic way of saying that you don’t care.
14. 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. For example:
IMHO, cursive writing is obsolete.
15. IRL: In Real Life
IRL Sonic pic.twitter.com/2cAQL7gm6y
— Michael Moran (@TheMichaelMoran) July 5, 2015
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.
16. JSYK: Just So You Know
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! ?
— keithslayer ?? (@thejoannagraham) July 8, 2015
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.
17. Lulz: Laughs (“Just for Laughs”)
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.
*If you need to know what LOL is, then you should seek out a more basic “internet for Dummies 101” guide than this article.
18. MFW: My Face When | MRW: My Reaction When
— Caoimhe (@CaoimheDuff) June 15, 2015
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 feature someone’s face.
19. MIRL: Me In Real Life
— Reign1337 (@Reign1337tv) March 1, 2016
What It Means: MIRL is usually used as self-deprecating humor, especially when you see something online that you identify with. Otherwise, with something like a reaction GIF or a photo/video, you’d add a funny caption to it stating that’s how you are in real life.
20. NSFW: Not Safe For Work
— E! Entertainment (@eentertainment) July 2, 2015
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.
21. NSFL: Not Safe For Life
— Science News (@TheScienceRock) July 5, 2015
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 leave a mental scar, whether around others or not.
22. PAW: Parents Are Watching
What It Means: Literally that. If kids want to avoid saying or doing 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?
23. 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.”
24. SMH: Shakes/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. See our guide to SMH for more info on it.
25. Squad Goals: The Friends/Group You Want
— OperationFreedomPaws (@Opfreedompaws) October 5, 2018
What It Means: Squad Goals is when you see a group you like, and either wish they were your group of friends, or wish your friends could rise up to their level.
26. TBT: Throwback Thursday
What It Means: When you want to post an old photo, hold off until 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.
27. 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 originated on Reddit. In fact, the TIL subreddit is one of the best places to learn cool stuff. 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”.
28. TL;DR: Too Long; Didn’t Read
What It Means: The internet is a treasure trove of detailed information, but sometimes, you haven’t got time to read the whole thing. TL;DR was invented to give a quick summary of the content.
29. YMMV: Your Mileage May Vary
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 Troughton-Smith (@stroughtonsmith) July 2, 2015
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”.
30. YOLO: You Only Live Once
— Jeremy P. Beasley (@jeremypbeasley) July 2, 2015
What It Means: YOLO is a justification for doing something that you probably shouldn’t be doing, but want to do anyway. It’s also used ironically as commentary on someone else doing something idiotic.
More Internet Slang Words to Learn
This isn’t an exhaustive list of the trendiest internet slang by any means, and more words are constantly being added to the lexicon. And that’s not even counting social media slang and the hundreds of internet memes out there.
As technology evolves, so does the language we use on it. Which is why we already have more internet slang words you need to know. For example, we’ll show you what TBH means because IDK many of these—HBU?
Image Credit: gualtiero boffi/Shutterstock