The internet has undeniably changed the way we live, from Amazon getting us our packages overnight to social media giving us a welcome distraction from the doldrums of the workweek. And considering that 77 percent of Americans go online every day, with a quarter of that number claiming to be online “almost constantly,” it’s no wonder the influence of the internet has crept into our vernacular, as well.
In fact, you might be speaking in internet speak and not even realize it. The spread of internet slang is so pervasive that many of the words we use every day were actually once internet lingo. We’ve rounded up 40 slang words that were invented online, from fail to FOMO. And if you want some slang that hasn’t had the same sticking power, check out 20 Slang Words From the 1980s No One Uses Anymore.
People have been making lists of frequently asked questions for decades, but the first known use of FAQ was for the ARPNET SPACE email list in the 1980s. Yup, that’s right: you have NASA to thank for this one. And if you have some FAQs you’d like answered, check out these 30 Amazing Facts That Will Change the Way You View the World
Before the internet, snail mail was just mail. But with the advent of email, regular mail suddenly seemed slower…snail-like, you could almost say.
When you ghost on someone, you disappear without a trace, and it’s as though you never existed. This use of the word came to popularity thanks to online dating and how easy it is to vanish from someone’s life. And if you want to reduce the odds of getting ghosted, learn the 20 Questions You Should Never Ask on a First Date.
People have been taking pictures of themselves for ages, but thanks to the internet, we now know just how popular a pastime it is. The word was even added to the Oxford Dictionaries Online in 2013.
When you have to smack yourself in the forehead because somebody says or does something monumentally stupid, that’s a facepalm. And yes, we have the internet to thank for this term—and the emojis often used to express it.
Internet trolls have been around since the early ’90s. The word originally was meant to be associated with fishing, as in slowly dragging a piece of bait in the hopes of catching something. While that’s still true to an extent, it’s also associated with people who take joy in mocking others online. And if trolls have pushed you to the brink, you should know The 30 Best Reasons to Take a Digital Detox.
YOLO, short for you only live once, was once an acronym used almost exclusively online until Drake made it mainstream with his song “The Motto.”
Squee is a word for expressing extreme delight, and it was originally associated with online fan-girls who were trying too hard. However, we can now unanimously agree that it is a perfectly natural sound to make whenever you see a picture of a baby pig in galoshes, for example. And if you’re in the mood for a good squee, you should Meet the Adorable Dog That Waits for His Owner’s Train All Day.
The constant posting of exciting events on social media has given rise to FOMO, or fear of missing out. But of course you’re afraid of missing out—the internet also tells us you only live once, after all. And if you think you might be experiencing undo FOMO, learn the 20 Ways Social Media Stresses Us Out.
A newb, short for newbie, is a person without much experience but eager to learn, particularly in gaming. A newb is not to be confused with a noob, a person who doesn’t know anything, but also doesn’t want to learn.
Woot was originally a shorthand exclamation for gamers who found some treasure—wow, loot! Now it’s used both online and off to express any general excitement.
NSFW didn’t need to be a thing until the internet made it easy to click on the wrong thing and accidentally encounter something that was most definitely not safe for work. And now the acronym lives offline as a shorthand to describe anything risqué.
Lulz is a derivative of LOL. Basically, when you’re doing something for the lulz, you’re doing it for the laughs.
This form of unlike doesn’t mean “dissimilar,” but is rather used as a verb, meaning to stop liking something you previously enjoyed. It stems from the mechanics of Facebook usage—it’s the opposite of a like.
Derp’s the sound you make when you do something dumb, like an updated duh. A derp can also be a person or animal who’s maybe a little out to lunch, like a dog that always walks into a glass door or a cat that’s wearing a pair of doll underpants on its head.
BRB is a remnant from the early days of chat rooms, when you would send these three letters to let somebody know you’d be right back. Now people say it to let the folks they’re actually hanging out with know that they’re leaving for a second.
Another word that’s seeped into the parlance of our time from gaming, a fail can be a noun, like if a cake you’re trying to make collapses on itself in the oven. It can also be a word you shout rudely at a person who makes a mistake.
Yass burst onto the scene when a Lady Gaga fan used it on Twitter to express his sheer excitement about meeting the singer. It’s basically the same as yes, but you can add as many A’s or S’s to it as you want to convey varying degrees of excitement.
Duck face—a term for pursing your lips in a photo—began infiltrating the real world around the time that Myspace took off and is a natural byproduct of the explosion of selfies that happened around the same time.
Neckbeard is a pejorative term that use to describe a person who is into the nerdier side of internet culture: someone incapable of growing a full beard, into fedoras, and not particularly adept at social cues. Now that word has turned into an umbrella term for uncool guys on the internet.
A lurker was originally a person who read message boards without ever commenting or participating. Now a person can be a lurker anywhere, whether they’re hovering by the chips at a party, or accidentally liking a six-year-old picture of yours on Facebook.
As it became increasingly obvious that people on the internet are never going to read the entire thing, it became necessary to start giving lengthy or thorough explanations a Tl;dr, or too long; didn’t read. Now you can ask a person who is telling you a long-winded story for a tl;dr, and they’ll know exactly what you mean.
As more conversations began taking place without seeing the other person’s face or hearing their voice, people needed a way to express shock or excitement that went beyond using a bunch of exclamation points. Thus, OMG was born.
A lot of internet slang stems from a desire for brevity when typing, and especially when writing from your phone. Thus, obvs is a great way to say obviously without having to use so many letters. And it sounds great in a convo too, obvs.
Personally attacked used to be a legitimate way to express feeling like you’re being ganged up on. However, we live in an era of irony now, so now saying you feel personally attacked just means you relate to something that you wish you didn’t.
M’lady is the standard greeting of a neckbeard to any female-presenting human, and is internet shorthand for calling somebody out on acting in a neckbeard-ish manner. But you can also say it to friends to let them know you’re about to do something creepy or to convey to them the off-putting manner of another person without going into too much detail.
When all your communication takes place via messaging and texts, it’s super-important to let people know that you are, in fact, just kidding. JK is a great way to do that without all those pesky letters. It’s also very handy in conversation if you no longer have the energy to convey your feelings with your tone of voice. Just tack a JK on the end, and everyone will know you’re still cool.
Much like obs, srsly is another bit of internet shorthand that’s been stripped of vowels. Saying it out loud requires a good amount of disdain.
Now that so many things happen on the internet, it’s crucial to be able to let people know when things happen in real life, or IRL.
By the way, it’s okay to say BTW in spoken conversation these days. If you’re feeling extra-sassy, shorten it to BT-dubs, because it takes a lot of time to pronounce the letter W.
When an online argument turns into a giant catastrophe, that’s a dumpster fire. But lots of other things can be dumpster fires too, like your first attempt at making osso buco or the last bachelorette party you went to.
LOL started off with the positive intention of letting someone know that laughing out loud was happening. But if somebody says LOL to you, you can be sure they most certainly are not LOLing. If it’s in a text, maybe there was a smirk. Maybe.
Nightmare fuel was once used to describe images or stories you’d find online guaranteed to give you nightmares. In person, it can be used to describe everything from a bad date to the current political climate.
Because people share their entire lives for you to see on the internet, it’s easy to see a lot of behavior on social media that makes you feel like cringing. But people don’t limit their embarrassing moments to their online lives, so there are plenty of opportunities to see something cringy in real life.
From the more wholesome days of the web, a BFF is your best friend forever, and there is absolutely no shame in using this acronym whenever you need to talk about your number one ride-or-die bud.
There’s some disagreement on the origin of bae. Some folks say bae is short for babe, while others say it stands for Before Anyone Else. However, one thing is for clear: what used to be an online-only term is now a perfectly acceptable way to refer to your boo.
Wat is the absolute best response for when something makes no sense and leaves you utterly gobsmacked. It indicates that you are too confused to include the H and the question marks necessary to ask, “what?” It got its rise on message boards, then became a meme, and now here we are.
Rekt is slang that comes from online gaming. It’s short for wrecked, and it means to lose in such a way that you’re utterly humiliated and destroyed. It can also just be shorthand for getting way too inebriated.
If you see something that shakes you to the core, you have been shook. If it shakes you so hard that you seriously begin to wonder if you actually believe existence is real, you’re shooketh.
A normie is a person who doesn’t go into the weird parts of the internet, has relatively mainstream tastes and opinions, and probably has little or no interest in what any of these words mean. And for more ways to update your vocabulary, check out these 40 Slang Terms No One Over 40 Should Ever Use.
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