Text Abbreviations: What they are and how to use them.

Knowing the meaning of these terms will keep anyone with a phone, social media or even just web access from being constantly confused in the digital world!

OMG! IMO, texting abbreviations are the GOAT! If you have no idea what that means, it might be time to brush up on your texting abbreviations. These collections of letters, short for a single word or group of words, are so common in texting that many have moved beyond text conversations, migrating into spoken conversations and becoming widespread in social media captions and comments. Understanding texting abbreviations like IJBOL is no longer just a tech tip—once you know them, you’ll find them in everyday life!

Why do we use abbreviations when we text?

It seems impossible to imagine texting without abbreviations today, but how did abbreviations become such a massive part of texting lingo? Well, in the days before smartphones, and even before keyboard phones, texters were working with a limited number of characters—160, to be exact—and before “unlimited” plans became the law of the land, each text cost money to send.

Plus, typing with just thumbs isn’t quite the speedy process of typing on a traditional keyboard. Before using a keyboard phone, you had to press the number corresponding to the letter you wanted—enough times for that letter to appear. Needless to say, typing total words was cumbersome, and it became customary to shorten words and phrases.

Classic texting abbreviations

  1. LOL
    This is perhaps the most ubiquitous texting acronym. Short for “laughing out loud,” LOL is now used to express even the mildest amusement. You can respond “LOL!!” (perhaps paired with one of these popular emojis) when your friend tells you a hilarious story, but you can also say something like “I forgot to have breakfast today, LOL.” It’s something of a catch-all reaction. Another note: LOL does not stand for “lots of love.” In the early days, when texting abbreviations were becoming mainstream, plenty of people made this LOL-worthy mistake.
  2. OMG
    The abbreviation OMG, for “oh my God” (or gosh, goodness, or your expression of choice) vastly predates texting. The Oxford English Dictionary tracked its earliest recorded use to a letter written in 1917! Today, you’ll see it used in sentences like “OMG, can you believe how hot it is today?!” It’s a pretty all-around exclamation or reaction.
  3. IDK
    IDK is perhaps the theme of this article because it means “I don’t know,” which might be how you felt about all these text abbreviations before you learned what they stood for. Next time you get a text from your kid asking where their favorite shirt is, reply with “IDK, ask your mother/father/sibling.”
  4. JK
    JK means “just kidding.” Use it to indicate that you’re kidding—but use it with care. Posting a scathing backhanded compliment and then quickly adding a “JK!!!” really doesn’t do much to soften the blow, so make sure the audience of your “JK” is on board with your sense of humor. This common abbreviation is often paired with another: “JK, LOL” is a dismissive, sometimes self-deprecating combo of texting abbreviations you’ll often see. “I aced my math test today!!! JK LOL, it was rough.”
  5. ROFL
    You’re probably not “rolling on the floor laughing” when you use the abbreviation ROFL, but it’s still a stronger indicator of mirth than “LOL.” Usually, it’s a standalone response to something funny. Add exclamation points and laugh/crying face emojis as you please.
  6. YOLO
    Short for “you only live once,” YOLO is a rallying cry for living life to the fullest, and all that entails, especially in the social media sphere. Ordering a pizza when you “should” be ordering a salad? YOLO! Going bungee jumping for the first time? YOLO! It can encourage others to do such things or commemorate your own doing of them. The popularity of YOLO peaked around the early 2010s, and today, you’re more likely to see this texting acronym used with a hint of sarcasm (or more than a hint) than with full-flung earnestness.
  7. HMU
    “Hit me up” is an expression that might need further explanation once you know what the letters stand for. Rather than referring to physical violence, “hit me up” simply means “contact me” or “call me.” It dates back to the days of pagers in the 1990s when people would send phone numbers to each other via one-way message. The pager would light up and/or make noise to indicate that you’d been “hit up.” The phrase was all over the ’90s hip-hop sphere, and it stuck around when texting abbreviations began to dominate, with the shortened “HMU” becoming the prevailing way to say it in the late 2000s. While pagers are extinct, the abbreviation certainly is not.

Basic texting abbreviations

  1. BC
    In texting terms, the second and third letters of the alphabet don’t refer to the time “before Christ.” BC is, instead, short for “because.” Often, texting abbreviations like these won’t even be capitalized. You might see something like, “Wanted to see how you were doing bc I haven’t heard from you in a while.”
  2. THX/TY/TYSM
    THX might remind the ’80s and ’90s kids of that bizarre, intense, loud movie intro that showed the THX Ltd. audiovisual company logo. But in a text, it’s simply short for “thanks,” with the X representing the sound at the end of the word. Even more common than THX is “TY” or “ty,” meaning “thank you.” And finally, you’ll see “TYSM” or “tysm” (“thank you so much”) quite frequently as well.
  3. NP/YW
    The logical response to “ty,” YW, or “yw” means “you’re welcome.” Similarly, NP or “np” means “no problem.” NP, though, can respond to an apology just as well as a thank you: “Sorry, but I’m going to be a few minutes late tonight!” “NP.”
  4. NBD
    You’ve seen this one all over the Internet and via text, but what does it mean? Well, wonder no more: It’s short for “no big deal.” It’s one of the most commonly used text abbreviations and fits everywhere. You can use it earnestly: “Don’t worry about being a few minutes late; it’s NBD!”… or not so earnestly. Next time someone says they can’t attend your party, you can text back “NBD”—even if you’re silently fuming. Even if you’re a pro at texting abbreviations, do you know how to use these iPhone hacks?
  5. BTW
    This is something that people say out loud in real life in addition to just texting it. BTW is short for “by the way.” You’d use it just like you’d use the expression in real life—to introduce a new topic of conversation. “BTW, I saw you went to the beach yesterday—it looked amazing!!” When people say it out loud, they might say “B-T-dubbs.” After all, if you’re going to abbreviate, abbreviate, right?! “W” is a three-syllable letter—as long as the original phrase!
  6. LMK
    This one translates to “let me know,” it’s useful in all sorts of situations for nudging or putting the ball in someone’s court and trying to plan a group event when one person doesn’t know if they’ll be able to make it.   Just tell them “LMK when you know”—and hopefully they will in good time.
  7. ILY
    ILY or “ily” is short for “I love you.” This is a pretty casual way to say those words, so maybe avoid sharing the sentiment for the first time (or even second or third) with your significant other this way. And, depending on her general fondness for and knowledge of texting abbreviations, perhaps avoid texting your grandma “ILY.” You can certainly sign off with “ILY” to a longtime significant other, good friend, or family member you text with all the time. As a real casual variation, you might even see “LY” (or “ly”). Make sure you read up on these heart emoji meanings before you type out your next loving message.
  8. OMW
    If you were supposed to be at dinner 10 minutes ago but you’re still blow-drying your hair, try texting your significant other something like “OMW, see you soon.” OMW means “on my way” and is often used when you’re not on your way … but will be soon.
  9. NVM
    Two words, three letters: NVM is short for “never mind.” You’d use it in much the same way you use the phrase in real life: “What was that restaurant we went to last week???” *five minutes later* “NVM, I found it!”
  10. IRL
    This is a great one because it’s often a relationship builder. It means “in real life” (as opposed to online or over the phone) and is great for saying things like “Would love to see you soon IRL!” Just be sure you’re not committing one of these annoying text habits when you reply with this.
  11. ETA
    Who has time to test out “estimated time of arrival”?! You’ll hear this abbreviation spoken out loud quite a bit. You’re just as likely to hear “Looking forward to seeing you tonight, what’s your ETA?” spoken as you are to see it in a text.
  12. TMI
    This is another one that’s quite popular beyond the realm of texting. When was the last time you heard someone say all three words: “too much information”? If your friend of a friend shares every last detail of their bout of food poisoning on socials, the simple three-letter response “TMI!” says it all. Another way you’ll see this, including in person, is when someone prefaces a story with “This might be TMI, but …” to give listeners a heads-up and perhaps make them expect something worse than what is actually about to be said.
  13. FR
    FR stands for “for real.” You can use it when you agree with somebody or are trying to stress the authenticity and “realness” of your statement. If somebody texts you, “I loved that movie!” you could respond, “FR, I think it’s the best movie out right now. I loved the action scenes!”
  14. YNK
    YNK stands for “you never know.” This is a great way to encourage friends and family to try new things or take risks! YNK what the outcome will be—and it could be something fabulous. If a friend is going back and forth about leaving their job, you could text them, “YNK—you could find your dream job!”

Social media abbreviations

  1. GOAT
    This texting acronym doesn’t have anything to do with four-legged horned mammals. GOAT, almost always preceded by “the,” means “greatest of all time.” An acronym that’s been all over social media, GOAT can be used to praise a friend (“Did you see Michelle’s fitness routine? She’s the GOAT!”) or a superstar in a particular field (“Saw the GOAT himself, Tom Brady, win another Superbowl!”). BTW, while most of these are texting abbreviations or initialisms, GOAT is a texting acronym—so what’s the difference between an abbreviation vs. acronym vs. initialism?
  2. TFW
    If you see someone posting a funny image of a cat lounging with sunglasses captioned something like “TFW, you’re off work for a long weekend,” know that it’s one of the funny text abbreviations people use these days. It translates to “that feeling when,” and it’s most commonly associated with visual images that represent how someone is feeling, like these work-from-home memes. Try using it with a smiling selfie like “TFW dinner came out even better than I imagined.”
  3. DM
    Have you heard someone say they were “sliding into his/her DMs” and thought, “Sliding into their what now?” DM is short for “direct message.” More related to social media than to texting, DMs refer to the private messaging option on apps like Twitter and Instagram. Since it suggests taking the conversation out of the more visible public sphere, it often has flirtatious implications. It can also be a verb: “DM me to learn more about texting abbreviations.”
  4. FOMO
    FOMO means “fear of missing out.” You feel FOMO when you see your BFFs (that’s “best friends forever”) out partying, and you can’t make it. While “#FOMO” can be a facetious comment on a post like that, it’s also recognized as a genuine mental health issue in our social media-driven age.
  5. ICYMI
    This one might’ve confused you on Facebook or Instagram, but it’s a pretty useful text abbreviation to have handy, as it just means “in case you missed it.” It’s great for uploading photos after the fact, like a photo from a relative’s wedding that you forgot to post the day of, or a family photo from years ago. Try uploading a recent photo of a life event with the hashtag “#ICYMI.” It’ll also often be in the caption or subject of “old” news stories or emails (read: from a day ago). Learn more about how to use ICYMI.
  6. FTW
    FTW means “for the win” and is a slangy, upbeat way of celebrating something via social media commentary. It doesn’t need to refer to winning—it can just celebrate a triumphant moment. Imagine taking your first SCUBA lesson and posting a photo of a successful dive with the caption “Diving lessons FTW!” You can also use it for subtler occasions—if your friend shuts down a trollish commenter, declare “[friend’s name] FTW!”
  7. TLDR
    “TLDR” means “too long, didn’t read” and is a common response to long-winded, rambling opinion pieces. Next time your co-worker uploads a six-paragraph status about the condition of her daily reports, try commenting, “TLDR, but I hope you get it all done!” Writers also often try to get ahead of TLDR. In more formal, journalistic writing or a lengthy, original social media post, you may see “TLDR” (often formatted as TL;DR) followed by a quick summary, so the inevitable speedy scrollers can still get the gist. The speedy scroller may also appreciate the meaning of the latest texting abbreviation, s/u.
  8. GRWM
    GRWM means “get ready with me.” It’s a popular abbreviation on TikTok and on Instagram reels that usually accompanies a video of someone getting ready, whether they’re going through their morning routine—workout, shower, skincare—or getting dressed and doing their hair and makeup for a special event.

Opinionated texting abbreviations

  1. FWIW
    Consider FWIW one of the snarky-but-still-polite text abbreviations out there because it’s a great opener, translating to “for what it’s worth.” It’s a kinder way of preambling a strong opinion and can be used in situations like “FWIW, I never liked your boyfriend anyway.” Here’s more about how to use FWIW.
  2. TBH
    This is the twin sister of FWIW, yet another way to politely (or not so politely!) preface a strong or possibly offensive opinion. It means “to be honest.” Try using it when your aunt texts the family group chat asking who wants to eat tuna casserole at her house tonight. “TBH, tuna casserole is not my fave.” Still, we can’t guarantee that text abbreviations will soften the blow.
  3. SMH
    SMH means “shaking my head,” which is what we’re all doing at least half the time we scroll through our Facebook newsfeeds and see crazy political rants from long-lost relatives. FWIW (eh?), it’s … often not used kindly and carries an air of condescension. If you’re going to use SMH, keep your audience in mind. Next time you see your cousin upload a muffin-baking video that ruins Grandma’s recipe, you can comment, “You’re not supposed to put that much baking powder in the bowl—SMH,” as long as your cuz is the type to take it in stride.
  4. IIRC
    IIRC stands for “if I recall correctly” and is the social media equivalent of you bringing receipts. It’s a little argumentative but useful when you need to say things like, “IIRC, you promised me so much more. Here’s a screenshot to prove it.” These are the group texting etiquette rules everyone should follow.
  5. TNTL
    TNTL stands for “trying not to laugh.” You might comment on this if somebody posts a funny story about a time they made an embarrassing blunder—or you could comment on a post that takes itself very seriously, so much so that it’s laughable. Be careful: This could offend some people if you misuse it.
  6. IMO/IMHO
    Another one that can cause the recipient to brace themselves, IMO, means “in my opinion.” The strength/controversy of that opinion can vary vastly, though. You can use this one innocently in pop-culture debates: “IMO, Thanos’s plan was better in Infinity War than in Endgame.” IMHO, it is a variation meaning “in my humble opinion.” With the addition of almost-always-sarcastic humility, IMHO, it is usually a little edgier, as it were.
  7. IJBOL
    IJBOL stands for “I just burst out laughing,” a trendier way of letting whomever you’re messaging know you’re laughing hard at their joke.