IM Abbreviations

woman using laptop in field
Meebo Instant Messager

With today's technology-centered world, instant messengers and IM abbreviations have become a large part of modern culture. Phrases like "LOL" and "OMG" are commonplace even outside of chat rooms and e-mail messages. Even so, some people do not know what these abbreviations and altered words mean. The older crowd, as well as people who are just not familiar with the Internet may know abbreviations like "BFF", but they probably do not know what phrases like "lawl", "ROTFL", and "BRB" mean. Thankfully, there are many websites that help with these translations.

Types of IM Abbreviations

Loosely, instant messenger lingo falls into three categories: status messages, expressions, and intentions. The first type are used to indicate some current situation or pending situation, such as being away from the keyboard (AFK). The expression type of IM abbreviation is used in the same way body language and sounds are used in everyday conversation. The most famous example is "LOL" for "laughing out loud," an expression that has worked its way into common culture with the verbalized "ell-oh-ell." Third, intention, is most often used as greetings, or farewells, such as "TTYL" for "Talk to you later."

Here are further examples of each type:

Status Lingo

  • AFK - Away from keyboard
  • SR - Shower
  • POS - Parents over shoulder
  • G2G - Got to go
  • LOL - Laughing out loud
  • ROFL - Rolling on the floor laughing
  • ROFLMAO - Rolling on the floor laughing my a** off
  • YTB - You're the best
  • JK - Just kidding
  • JMS - Just making sure
  • JW - Just wondering

Intention Lingo

  • BBL - Be back later
  • BRB - Be right back
  • BBS - Be back soon
  • BFF - Best Friends Forever
  • CU - See you
  • L8R - Later
  • TTYL - Talk to you later
  • KOTC - Kiss on the cheek
  • LYL - Love you lots
  • TY - Thank you
  • SRY - Sorry
  • TTFN - Ta ta for now

Expression Lingo

  • FITB - Fill in the blank
  • G - Grin (these and other facial expression lingo terms have largely been replaced by smiley expressions)
  • EG - Evil grin (see above)
  • IMO - In my opinion (also IMHO, in my humble opinion)
  • IRL - In real life
  • WB - Welcome back
  • FYI - For your information
  • NFC - No f**king clue
  • BF - Boyfriend
  • GF - Girlfriend
  • NM - Never mind
  • NP - No problem
  • OMG - Oh my gosh
  • WTF - What the f**k?
  • TMI - Too much information
  • WBU - What about you?

Aside from the terms above, it is also common practice when using lingo to substitute single numbers or letters for homophonic words - for example, "How R U?" instead of "How are you?" or "Nice 2 C U 2day." This method is especially used when sending a text message via phone, which uses many of the same conventions of instant messaging.

When NOT to Use Instant Messenger Lingo

While it is understood by a large part of western culture, IM lingo is not appropriate in all situations. Some people react very strongly to a person who uses the phrase "Double-you tee eff?" in a verbal conversation, because it does stand for an expletive.

  • Do not use instant messenger lingo in any school or business documents. The only exception would be in a work of fiction where the characters were using an instant messaging client.
  • Do not assume that the person you are chatting with will already know the same instant messenger lingo that you do.
  • While IM lingo may speed up chats and phone texting, it is often more impressive to express yourself in complete sentences with proper punctuation in your non-virtual communications.

As the world of technology changes, the phrases and abbreviations will change as well. It is always appropriate, when confused, to simply ask a person what they meant. In the end, it's all about communication.

Online Dictionaries of IM Abbreviations

If the word abbreviation you are looking for is not listed above, there is likely an online dictionary that has it listed. Below is a list of websites where you can find definitions of instant messenger lingo:

  • AIM Lingo: This is a list of commonly used AIM abbreviations, but these phrases are also used on other instant messengers as well.
  • UrbanDictionary.com: UrbanDictionary.com is a massive compilation of slang words, as well as many different chat room abbreviations and altered words.
  • Webopedia: Webopedia is a large list of abbreviations commonly used in chat rooms and on instant messaging systems.
IM Abbreviations