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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.

Why Abbreviate?

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.

1. 2nite

2nite: Tonight

The numeral “2” is often substituted for “to” or “too” when texting. For example, “2moro” (“tomorrow”) and “G2G” (“got to go”).

Example: I’m free 2nite. Got dinner plans?

2. CYA

CYA: See ya

“C” is often used as a stand-in for “see,” such as “CYT” (“see you tomorrow”) and “CU” (“see you”).

Example:  Great chat! Gotta study for my final now. CYA

3. B4N

B4N: Bye for now

Example:  Just got 2 work. B4N

4. BC

BC: Because

Example: Tacos for lunch bc it’s Tuesday!

5. BTW

BTW: By the way

Example:  BTW I ate your plums in the fridge. So sweet, so cold!

Example:  Your new blog post is going viral on Twitter btw.

6. DM

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.

Example:  Thanks for responding to my “roommate wanted” ad. DM me for more info and photos of the room.

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.

Example:  Btw I just read this guy’s essay on the Oxford comma. Swoon! Am sliding into his DMs.

7. FTW

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.

Example:  Almost finished with my final class project. One more late night ftw!

Example:  Big client meeting this afternoon and my lunch explodes all over my white blouse. Tacos FTW.


FWIW: For what it’s worth

Example:  Hey FWIW just want to say you’re an amazing writer.

9. IDK

IDK: I don’t know

Similar abbreviations include “DK” (“don’t know”) and “IDC” (“I don’t care”).

IDK what you mean, and IDC. Acronyms FTW.

Example:  Why does no one know what IDK means?

10. ILY

ILY: I love you

Example:  Thanks for bringing me pizza today! ILY

Example:  ILY bae! Sweet dreams.

11. IMO

IMO: in my opinion

“IMHO” (“in my humble opinion”) is another common variation.

Example:  IMO that rug really tied the room together.

12. IRL

IRL: In real life

This phrase is typically used to differentiate between online (or media) personas, and how things are in reality.

Example:  Did you know Jon Snow and Ygritte are married IRL?

Example:  It looks big in photos, but irl the Mona Lisa is tiny.

13. JK

JK: Just kidding

You might genuinely use this texting abbreviation while joking around, but it’s also frequently used to indicate sarcasm.

Example:  Just finished my novel! JK. 60,000 more words to go…

14. LMK

LMK: Let me know

Example:  Hey, LMK if you want pizza or tacos for dinner tonight.

15. LOL

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).

Example: Me: Been waiting 30 minutes for my train, but I’m so into this novel I didn’t notice it was late! Debbie: LOL

Example: Wondered why my mac n’ cheese was bland, then realized I forgot to add the cheese packet. LOL

16. NBD

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.

Example: I’d like the mango mochi ice cream, but nbd if they only have strawberry.

Example: Chatted with Neil Gaiman for 10 minutes at a book signing and by some miracle did not make a fool of myself. NBD

17. NP

NP: No problem

Example: NP that you’re running late, I just left the house too.

18. NSFW

NSFW: Not safe for work

Example: Here’s the link to the music video, but wait till you get home to watch, it’s NSFW.

19. NVM

NVM: Nevermind

Example: Can you buy more ketchup? Oh nvm, just found the bottle in the door.

20. OMG

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.

Example: OMG this bookstore is having a huge sale! Let’s hope there’s also a bookshelf sale…

21. OTOH

OTOH: On the other hand

This phrase is used to compare the two sides of an argument.

Example: It’s midnight, I’m tired, and I should probably go to bed. OTOH I have unlimited popcorn and three more seasons of Game of Thrones to watch!

22. OMW

OMW: On my way

Example: Feel free to grab a table, I’m OMW.

23. ROFL

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.

Example: My friend just asked when the “Winds of Winter” release date is. ROFL

24. SO

SO: Significant other

Example: I’d love to get together for a game night! I’ll check the calendar with my SO and get back to you.

25. TBH

TBH: To be honest

This phrase is used to indicate that you’re expressing your true opinion.

Example: I am not a fan of jello. It’s way too wiggly, TBH

26. THX

THX: Thanks

Example: Can you send me the link to the event page? THX

Example: THX for bringing donuts for our team!

27. TMI

TMI: Too much information

Usually used when someone reveals information that is shocking or unpleasant in some way.

Example: I just learned how hotdogs are made. TMI

28. TTYL

TTYL: Talk to you later

Similar variations include “TTYT” (“talk to you tomorrow”) and “TTFN (“ta-ta for now”).

Example: Gotta sign off now. TTYL

29. YOLO

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.

Example: Splurged on tickets and am heading to Comic-Con! YOLO

Example: Ordering the extra extra spicy wings against my better judgement. YOLO