“What on earth are those internet people saying?” This is a question that many parents have asked their teenage children, most of whom will roll their eyes in response.
However, even young people who grew up with the internet often have trouble keeping up with the ever-changing lingo of abbreviations, acronyms, and slang.
What Is Internet Slang?
Things change incredibly quickly online, and language is always evolving, too. New terms and acronyms have developed online to refer to specific internet phenomena, or just to make life easier when typing out long messages.
These words then often trickle down into everyday conversations and situations. Every month the Merriam-Webster English dictionary adds new words to its extensive record of the English language, and in recent years, many of these new additions are slang terms that originated on the internet.
For example, in October 2021, Merriam-Webster added 455 new words and terms, including “amirite” (an abbreviation for ‘am I right’), “FTW” (for the win), “deplatform,” and “digital nomad,” all of which are directly related to online cultures.
They also added the term “dad bod,” which they define as “a physique regarded as typical of an average father; especially one that is slightly overweight and not extremely muscular.” This may not be directly an internet slang term, but nevertheless, it’s very funny.
Popular Internet Slang & Abbreviations
To help you keep up, I’ve compiled a dictionary of popular internet slang terms and acronyms. This certainly isn’t a comprehensive list, but it does include some of the most commonly used (and commonly confused) terms.
AFK: “Away from keyboard.” This acronym originated in the early chat room culture of the 1990s. Today, it’s most often used in work settings to explain to coworkers or clients that you won’t be able to respond to messages for a period of time.
DW: “Don’t Worry.” The acronym DW is one of the oldest on my list, with Urban Dictionary first recording its use in 2003.
FOMO: “Fear of missing out.” A slang term describing the feeling of jealousy or discomfort that comes from thinking you’ve missed a fun event or important milestone.
GOAT: “Greatest of all time.” This term originated with athletes who referred to themselves as “the greatest of all time” at their given sport. However, it has branched out and can be used to refer to anyone who’s the best at anything. Many people find it arrogant or off-putting, but there’s no denying that its usage is becoming increasingly common.
HMU: “Hit me up.” A slang term meaning “call me” or “text me” (it has nothing to do with actually hitting anyone).
HYD: “How [are] you doing?” Similar to “what’s up?” but often used in a joking or flirtatious manner. As in, “Hey cutie, HYD?”
IG: “I guess”; or more commonly, “Instagram.” Depending on the context, the acronym “IG may refer to the phrase “I guess” or the social media site Instagram. As in, “You look great in your pic; you should post it to IG.”
IGHT: “Alright, Yes, Okay, Fine or Good”. IGHT is a shortened form of the more common phrase AIGHT. IGHT and AIGHT are both words that have the same “positive” meaning. Both are abbreviations of the same phrase.
ILY: “I love you.” This one is pretty self-explanatory.
IMY: “I miss you.” Including this acronym in a text message to a friend, family member, or romantic partner is a cute, casual way to let them know you’re thinking of them.
ISTG: “I swear to God.” Used to express honesty or seriousness about a subject. As in, “ISTG I saw Chris Rock working out in my gym this morning.” This is not a very common acronym, so if you see it in a text or on social media make sure you understand the context, as it could mean something else.
IYKYK: “If you know, you know.” An acronym that originated on social media, IYKYK implies that only certain specific people or groups will understand the joke. For example, someone might post a meme that would only make sense to computer coders, with the caption “IYKYK.”
LMAO: “Laughing my ass off.” Similar to LOL (laughing out loud), LMAO is used to express that you found something funny or ironic. It can also be used in sarcastic or hostile ways, depending on the context. As in, “LMAO what is wrong with you?”
LMK: “Let me know.” In other words, keep me posted, or give me the relevant information when you know.
MBN: “Must be nice.” MBN can have two meanings. Most commonly, it’s used to express jealousy or envy. As in, “Wow, he bought a Tesla at age 19, MBN.” Less commonly, MBN can be an earnest reminder that someone needs to be nice.
NGL: “Not gonna lie.” An acronym for a slang term used to express honesty or seriousness. As in, “Not gonna lie, I hated the new Spiderman movie.”
NSFW: “Not safe for work.” Used to label videos, photos, or other posts that contain violence, sex, or any other content that may not be appropriate for underage viewers. The term likely originated from the Snopes.com online community in the late 1990s and reached peak usage in 2015. As a general rule of thumb, if you come across a link or video labeled NSFW, do not open it in front of your boss or kids!
OFC: “Of course.” This is another relatively old internet acronym, used as a simple way to express agreement in three little letters.
OP: “Original poster” or “original post.” Used to give credit to the person, website, or page that first created or shared a post, usually on social media. The “original poster” is the person who first posted about a topic or shared a piece of content. The “original post,” on the other hand, is the content itself. If you open a message thread or Twitter thread, the original post will be the first thing you see at the top.
OTP: “One true pair.” This term originated from online fandom culture, in which fictional characters are imagined by fans as being the “one true pair” for each other romantically. Although this usually refers to fictional characters, real famous people can also be OTPs for their fans. For example, “I saw an OTP of Emma Watson and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Don’t you think they’d be a cute couple?”
SMH: “Shaking my head.” Used to express disappointment in someone or something.
STG: “Swear to God.” Similar to ISTG (“I swear to God”). It’s unclear where this acronym originated, but it’s used to express seriousness and honesty about a topic or statement.
SUS: “Suspicious.” Can be used as an acronym or simply a shortening of the word, as in “sus.” Meaning you think something is unlikely or questionable. As in, “He’s been streaming on Twitch all day but he says he finished his homework? That’s sus.”
TBD: “To be determined.” Used to explain that more information will be available later or that something hasn’t been decided yet.
TBH: “To be honest,” or alternately, “to be heard.” Similar to NGL (“not gonna lie”), TBH is used to express earnestness or honesty about something. As in, “I don’t really like Taylor Swift TBH.”
TMI: “Too much information.” Usually said in response to a piece of information that you didn’t want to know or that you find to be inappropriate or “too much.” For example, “My friend wanted to give me every single detail of her date, but I told her it’s TMI.”
TTYL: “Talk to you later” is a common abbreviation used online, on social media, and in gaming. It's typically used when someone is ending a conversation.
WTV: “Whatever.” Used to express that you don’t care about something or feel ambivalent about it. This acronym originated on the popular photo-sharing app Snapchat.
WYA: “Where [are] you at?” Or, in other words, “Where are you?” It’s unclear where this abbreviation originated, but it certainly makes it shorter and easier to ask friends where they are.
WYD: “What [are] you doing?” Similar to WYA, WYD takes a longer question and turns it into a convenient, bite-sized form for texting and social media.
WYM: “What [do] you mean?” Another abbreviation for a longer question, WYM makes it quick and easy to ask for clarification.
YOLO: “You only live once.” Turned into a famous slogan by Drake in his song “The Motto,” this expression is often used before doing something reckless or impulsive. As in, “Let’s go bungee jumping! #YOLO.”
Internet Slang: Good or Bad?
Abbreviations and slang used on the internet – particularly slang spelling of common words such as “wut” instead of “what” – are often blamed for the decreasing reading and writing skills of students in the United States and abroad.
Even though no direct link between internet slang and decreasing English language skills has been proven, it’s easy to see why many people suspect there is a connection. As more and more of young people’s lives and social interactions take place on their phones and devices, they increasingly use internet slang in real life.
As a result, teachers often complain of students using lowercase letters, incorrect spelling, and fragmented sentences in their academic writing.
At the same time, the effects of technology on language skills are not all bad. For students, technology can foster creativity, improve collaboration, save time, and provide free learning resources.
When it comes to writing, there are tons of online resources for improving writing, from classes and dictionary websites to technological tools like spell check on Word and Grammarly.
Overall, acronyms and internet slang make online communication more convenient for all of us. It’s natural for languages to change and evolve (imagine what we would all talk like if the English language hadn’t changed since the time of Shakespeare!), and the rise of internet slang may simply be a new era of linguistic changes. Best of all, it’s pretty darn fun.