LOL, an abbreviation for laughing out loud, or laugh out loud, is a common element of Internet slang. It was used historically on Usenet but is now widespread in other forms of computer-mediated communication, and even face-to-face communication. It is one of many initialisms for expressing bodily reactions, in particular laughter, as text, including initialisms for more emphatic expressions of laughter such as LMAO ("laugh(ing) my ass off"), and ROTFL or ROFL ("roll(ing) on the floor laughing"). Other unrelated expansions include the now mostly historical "lots of luck" or "lots of love" used in letter-writing.
The list of acronyms "grows by the month" and they are collected along with emoticons and smileys into folk dictionaries that are circulated informally amongst users of Usenet, IRC, and other forms of (textual) computer-mediated communication. These initialisms are controversial, and several authors recommend against their use, either in general or in specific contexts such as business communications.
LOL was first documented in the Oxford English Dictionary in March 2011.
Laccetti (professor of humanities at Stevens Institute of Technology) and Molski, in their essay entitled The Lost Art of Writing, are critical of the terms, predicting reduced chances of employment for students who use such slang, stating that, "Unfortunately for these students, their bosses will not be 'lol' when they read a report that lacks proper punctuation and grammar, has numerous misspellings, various made-up words, and silly acronyms." Fondiller and Nerone in their style manual assert that "professional or business communication should never be careless or poorly constructed" whether one is writing an electronic mail message or an article for publication, and warn against the use of smileys and these abbreviations, stating that they are "no more than e-mail slang and have no place in business communication".
Yunker and Barry in a study of online courses and how they can be improved through podcasting have found that these slang terms, and emoticons as well, are "often misunderstood" by students and are "difficult to decipher" unless their meanings are explained in advance. They single out the example of "ROFL" as not obviously being the abbreviation of "rolling on the floor laughing" (emphasis added). Haig singles out LOL as one of the three most popular initialisms in Internet slang, alongside BFN ("bye for now") and IMHO ("in my honest/humble opinion"). He describes the various initialisms of Internet slang as convenient, but warns that "as ever more obscure acronyms emerge they can also be rather confusing". Bidgoli likewise states that these initialisms "save keystrokes for the sender but [...] might make comprehension of the message more difficult for the receiver" and that "[s]lang may hold different meanings and lead to misunderstandings especially in international settings"; he advises that they be used "only when you are sure that the other person knows the meaning".
Shortis observes that ROTFL is a means of "annotating text with stage directions". Hueng, in discussing these terms in the context of performative utterances, points out the difference between telling someone that one is laughing out loud and actually laughing out loud: "The latter response is a straightforward action. The former is a self-reflexive representation of an action: I not only do something but also show you that I am doing it. Or indeed, I may not actually laugh out loud but may use the locution 'LOL' to communicate my appreciation of your attempt at humor."
David Crystal notes that use of LOL is not necessarily genuine, just as the use of smiley faces or grins is not necessarily genuine, posing the rhetorical question "How many people are actually 'laughing out loud' when they send LOL?". Franzini concurs, stating that there is as yet no research that has determined the percentage of people who are actually laughing out loud when they write LOL.
Victoria Clarke, in her analysis of telnet talkers, states that capitalization is important when people write LOL, and that "a user who types LOL may well be laughing louder than one who types lol", and opines that "these standard expressions of laughter are losing force through overuse". Egan describes LOL, ROTFL, and other initialisms as helpful as long as they are not overused. He recommends against their use in business correspondence because the recipient may not be aware of their meanings, and because in general neither they nor emoticons are (in his view) appropriate in such correspondence. June Hines Moore shares that view. So, too, does Lindsell-Roberts, who gives the same advice of not using them in business correspondence, "or you won't be LOL".
Spread from written to spoken communication
LOL, ROFL, and other initialisms have crossed from computer-mediated communication to face-to-face communication. David Crystal—likening the introduction of LOL, ROFL, and others into spoken language in magnitude to the revolution of Johannes Gutenberg's invention of movable type in the 15th century—states that this is "a brand new variety of language evolving", invented by young people within five years, that "extend[s] the range of the language, the expressiveness [and] the richness of the language".
Geoffrey K. Pullum points out that even if interjections such as LOL and ROFL were to become very common in spoken English, their "total effect on language" would be "utterly trivial".
Conversely, a 2003 study of college students by Naomi Baron found that the use of these initialisms in computer-mediated communication (CMC), specifically in instant messaging, was actually lower than she had expected. The students "used few abbreviations, acronyms, and emoticons". The spelling was "reasonably good" and contractions were "not ubiquitous". Out of 2,185 transmissions, there were 90 initialisms in total, only 31 CMC-style abbreviations, and 49 emoticons. Out of the 90 initialisms, 76 were occurrences of LOL.
On March 24, 2011, LOL, along with other acronyms, has been formally recognized in an update of the Oxford English Dictionary. In their research, it was determined that the earliest recorded use of LOL as an initialism was for "little old lady" in the 1960s. They also discovered that the oldest written record of the use of LOL in the contemporary meaning of "Laughing Out Loud" was from a message typed by Wayne Pearson in the 1980s, from the archives of Usenet.
Gabriella Coleman references "lulz" extensively in her anthropological studies of Anonymous.
The past tense of lol is lolled. The participle form is lolling.
Variations on the theme
Variants of LOL
- lolz: Occasionally used in place of LOL.
- lulz: Often used to denote laughter at someone who is the victim of a prank, or a reason for performing an action. This variation is often used on the Encyclopedia dramatica wiki and 4chan image boards. According to a New York Times article about Internet trolling, "lulz means the joy of disrupting another's emotional equilibrium." Can be used as a noun — e.g. "do it for the lulz.", shortened into "ftlulz" (to distinguish it from "ftl" - "for the lose"). See also LulzSec.
- lolwut: lol + wut, used to indicate bemused laughter, or confusion.
- Lawl or Lal: Pseudo-pronunciation of LOL. Saying "lawl" is sometimes meant in mockery of those who use the term LOL, and is not meant to express laughter.
- LOLOLOLOL: For added emphasis, LOL can be appended with any number of additional iterations of "OL". In cases such as these, the abbreviation is not to be read literally (i.e., "Laughing out loud out loud out loud out loud"), but is meant to suggest several LOLs in a row.
- trolololol or trollololol: A portmanteau of troll and LOL iterated. Indicates that the prank or joke was made by internet trolls, or the user thinks the prank or joke qualifies as internet trolling. See also Mr. Trololo.
- LMAO: For "Laughing my ass off". Variant: LMFAO ("Laughing my fucking ass off").
- ROFL: For "Rolling on the floor laughing". It is often combined with LMAO for added emphasis as ROFLMAO ("Rolling on the floor laughing my ass off"). Variant: ROTFL.
- Roflcopter: A portmanteau of ROFL and helicopter and popularized by the website www.roflcopter.com. The website contained the animated gif and nothing else. The term was supposedly first used by a Blizzard Entertainment moderator in the Warcraft III forum in 2003.
- lqtm: For "Laughing quietly to myself".
- *G* or *g*: For "grins". Like "lulz" it is used in the initialism "J4G" ("just for grins").
Commonly used equivalents in other languages
Most of these variants are usually found in lowercase.
- mdr: Esperanto version, from the initials of "multe da ridoj", which translates to "lot of laughs" in English.
- mdr: French version, from the initials of "mort de rire" which roughly translated means "died of laughter", although many French people also use LOL instead as it is the most widely used on the internet.
- חחח/ההה: Hebrew version of LOL. The letter ח is pronounced 'kh' and ה is pronounced 'h'. Putting them together (usually three or more in a row) makes the word khakhakha or hahaha (since vowels in Hebrew are generally not written), which is in many languages regarded as the sound of laughter.
- 555: the Thai variation of LOL. "5" in Thai is pronounced "ha", three of them being "hahaha".
- asg: Swedish abbreviation of the term asgarv, meaning intense laughter.
- g: Danish abbreviation of the word griner, which means "laughing" in Danish.
- rs: in Brazil "rs" (being an abbreviation of "risos", the plural of "laugh") is often used in text based communications in situations where in English LOL would be used, repeating it ("rsrsrsrsrs") is often done to express longer laughter or laughing harder. Also popular is "kkk" (which can also be repeated indefinitely), due to the pronunciation of the letter k in Portuguese sounding similar to the ca in card, and therefore representing the laugh "cacacacaca" (also similar to the Hebrew version above).
- mkm: in Afghanistan "mkm" (being an abbreviation of the phrase "ma khanda mikonom"). This is a Dari phrase that means "I am laughing".
- 哈哈哈/呵呵呵: in Chinese, although 大笑 (da xiao; "big laugh") is used, a more widespread usage is "哈哈哈" (ha ha ha) or "呵呵呵" (he he) on internet forums.
- ههههه: in Arabic is a repetition of the "ه" character meaning "Hahahaha" or "Hehehehe". "ه" is equivalent to the letter "H", while the "a" (or "e") is treated as an implied short vowel, and isn't written (as is standard in Arabic and Hebrew).
- (笑): in Japanese, the kanji for laugh (笑) is used in the same way as lol. It can be read as wara and so just w is also used as an abbreviation.
- ㅋㅋㅋ ("kkk") and ㅎㅎㅎ ("hhh") are usually used to indicate laughter in Korean. 'ㅋ', is a Korean Jamo consonant representing a "k" sound, and 'ㅎ' represents an "h" sound. Both "ㅋㅋㅋ" and "ㅎㅎㅎ" represent laughter which is not very loud. However, if a vowel symbol is written, louder laughter is implied: 하하 "haha" 호호, "hoho." 
- ha3: Malaysian variation of LOL. ha3 means pronouncing ha three times, "hahaha".
- jajajá: in Spanish, the letter "j" is pronounced /x/.
- jejeje: in the Philippines is used to represent "hehehe". "j" in Filipino languages is pronounced as /h/, derived from the Spanish /x/. Its origins can be traced to SMS language. It is widely used in a Filipino youth subculture known as Jejemons.
In some languages with a non-Latin script, the abbreviation LOL itself is also often transliterated. See for example Arabic لــول and Russian лол.
Pre-dating the Internet and phone texting by a century, the way to express laughter in morse code is "hi hi". The sound of this in morse, 'di-di-di-dit di-dit, di-di-di-dit di-dit', is thought to represent chuckling.
The word "lol" in other languages
- In Dutch, lol is a word (not an acronym) which, coincidentally, means "fun" ("lollig" means "funny")
- In Welsh, lol means "nonsense" – e.g., if a person wanted to say "utter nonsense" in Welsh, they would say "rwtsh lol"
- ^ a b Matt Haig (2001). E-Mail Essentials: How to Make the Most of E-Communications. Kogan Page. pp. 89. ISBN 0-7494-3576-3.
- ^ a b Louis R. Franzini (2002). Kids Who Laugh: How to Develop Your Child's Sense of Humor. Square One Publishers, Inc.. pp. 145–146. ISBN 0-7570-0008-8.
- ^ a b Michael Egan (2004). Email Etiquette. Cool Publications Ltd. pp. 32, 57–58. ISBN 1-84481-118-2.
- ^ a b LMAO – entry at Netlingo.com
- ^ a b c Jiuan Heng (2003). "The emergence of pure consciousness: The Theatre of Virtual Selves in the age of the Internet". In Peter D. Hershock, M. T. Stepaniants, and Roger T. Ames. Technology and Cultural Values: On the Edge of the Third Millennium. University of Hawaii Press. pp. 561. ISBN 0-8248-2647-7.
- ^ Eric S. Raymond and Guy L. Steele (1996). The New Hacker's Dictionary. MIT Press. pp. 435. ISBN 0-262-68092-0.
- ^ Robin Williams and Steve Cummings (1993). Jargon: An Informal Dictionary of Computer Terms. University of Michigan. pp. 475. ISBN 978-0-938151-84-5.
- ^ a b Tim Shortis (2001). The Language of ICT. Routledge. pp. 60. ISBN 978-0-415-22275-4.
- ^ Ryan Goudelocke (August 2004) (PDF). Credibility and Authority on Internet Message Boards (M.M.C. thesis). Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College. pp. 22. http://etd.lsu.edu/docs/available/etd-07082004-110035/unrestricted/Goudelocke_thesis.pdf.
- ^ American Heritage Abbreviations Dictionary 3rd Edition. Houghton Mifflin. 2005.
- ^ Steven G. Jones (1998). Cybersociety 2.0: Revisiting Computer-Mediated Community and Technology. Sage Publications Inc. pp. 52. ISBN 0-7619-1462-5.
- ^ a b Silvio Laccetti and Scott Molski (September 6, 2003). "Cost of poor writing no laughing matter". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. http://www.ajc.com/opinion/content/opinion/0603/08special_writing.html.
- ^ a b "Article co-authored by Stevens professor and student garners nationwide attention from business, academia" (Press release). Stevens Institute of Technology. October 22, 2003. http://howe.stevens.edu/babbio/pressroom/20031022-368-writingoped.html.
- ^ a b Shirley H. Fondiller and Barbara J. Nerone (2007). Health Professionals Style Manual. Springer Publishing Company. pp. 98. ISBN 0-8261-0207-7.
- ^ a b Frank Yunker and Stephen Barry. "Threaded Podcasting: The Evolution of On-Line Learning". In Dan Remenyi. Proceedings of the International Conference on e-Learning, Université du Québec à Montréal, 22–23 June 2006. Academic Conferences Limited. pp. 516. ISBN 1905305222.
- ^ a b Anna Stewart (March 25, 2011). "OMG! Oxford English Dictionary adds new words". CNN. http://articles.cnn.com/2011-03-25/living/oxford.new.words_1_new-words-oxford-english-dictionary-usage?_s=PM:LIVING. Retrieved March 28, 2011.
- ^ Hossein Bidgoli (2004). The Internet Encyclopedia. John Wiley and Sons. pp. 277. ISBN 0-471-22201-1.
- ^ David Crystal (September 20, 2001). Language and the Internet. Cambridge University Press. pp. 34. ISBN 0-521-80212-1.
- ^ Victoria Clarke (January 30, 2002). "Internet English: an analysis of the variety of language used on Telnet talkers" (PDF). http://www.american.edu/lfs/tesol/2003%20Paper--Lg%20of%20the%20Internet.pdf.
- ^ June Hines Moore (2007). Manners Made Easy for Teens. B&H Publishing Group. pp. 54. ISBN 978-0-8054-4459-9.
- ^ Sheryl Lindsell-Roberts (2004). Strategic Business Letters and E-Mail. Houghton Mifflin. pp. 289. ISBN 0-618-44833-0.
- ^ Neda Ulaby (February 18, 2006). "OMG: IM Slang Is Invading Everyday English". Digital Culture. National Public Radio. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5221618.
- ^ a b Kristen Philipkoski (February 22, 2005). "The Web Not the Death of Language". Wired News. http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,1284,66671,00.html.
- ^ Geoffrey K. Pullum (January 23, 2005). "English in Deep Trouble?". Language Log. http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/001829.html. Retrieved 2007-05-03.
- ^ Naomi Baron (February 18, 2005). "Instant Messaging by American College Students: A Case Study in Computer-Mediated Communication". American Association for the Advancement of Science. http://www.american.edu/tesol/Baron-AAAS-IM%20by%20American%20College%20Students.pdf.
- ^ Marsia Mason (April 4, 2011). "OMG, K.I.D.S., IMHO, Needs to Go". Moorestown Patch. http://moorestown.patch.com/articles/omg-kids-imho-needs-to-go. Retrieved April 9, 2011.
- ^ Graeme Diamond (March 24, 2011). "New initialisms in the OED". Oxford English Dictionary. http://www.oed.com/public/latest/latest-update/. Retrieved March 28, 2011.
- ^ James Morgan (April 8, 2011). "Why did LOL infiltrate the language?". BBC News. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-12893416. Retrieved April 9, 2011.
- ^ Norton, Quinn. "Why Do Anonymous Geeks Hate Scientologists?". Gizmodo. http://gizmodo.com/5590049/why-do-anonymous-geeks-hate-scientologists. Retrieved 17 February 2012.
- ^ Coleman, Gabriella. "Our Weirdness Is Free: The logic of Anonymous — online army, agent of chaos, and seeker of justice". Triple Canopy. http://canopycanopycanopy.com/15/our_weirdness_is_free. Retrieved 17 February 2012.
- ^ Schwartz, Mattathias (2008-08-03). "The Trolls Among Us". The New York Times. pp. MM24. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/03/magazine/03trolls-t.html?_r=1&ref=technology. Retrieved 2009-04-06.
- ^ "ftlulz". Urbandictionary. Sep 27, 2009. http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=ftlulz. Retrieved April 16, 2011.
- ^ "Definition of FTL". Online slang dictionary. , August 11, 2009. http://onlineslangdictionary.com/definition+of/ftl. Retrieved April 16, 2011.
- ^ "LMAO". NetLingo. http://www.netlingo.com/word/lmao.php. Retrieved April 12, 2011.
- ^ "What does LQTM mean?". Internet Slang. http://www.internetslang.com/LQTM.asp. Retrieved April 12, 2011.
- ^ "What does *G* mean?". Internet Slang. http://www.internetslang.com/*G*.asp. Retrieved April 16, 2011.
- ^ "What does J4G stand for?". Acronym finder. http://www.acronymfinder.com/Slang/J4G.html. Retrieved April 16, 2011.
- ^ "MDR". The Free Dictionary. http://acronyms.thefreedictionary.com/Mort+de+Rire. Retrieved April 9, 2011.
- ^ "French-English translation for "mdr (mort de rire)"". babLa. http://en.bab.la/dictionary/french-english/mdr-mort-de-rire. Retrieved April 9, 2011.
- ^ Elkan, Mikael (2002). "Chat, chatsprog og smileys". http://www.elkan.dk/sprog/chat_smileys.asp. Retrieved 2009-08-22.
- ^ "Learning to laugh and smile online…". Brazilian Portuguese from Semantica. http://www.semantica-portuguese.com/tag/slang. Retrieved April 9, 2011.
- ^ "LOL=wwwwww". Tokyo-Insider. http://www.tokyo-insider.net/?p=4756. Retrieved April 9, 2011.
- ^ "Slang 속어". We Study Korean. http://www.westudykorean.com/slang3.php. Retrieved April 9, 2011.
- ^ "¡ja, ja, ja!". SpanishDict. http://www.spanishdict.com/translate/%C2%A1ja,%20ja,%20ja!. Retrieved April 9, 2011.
- ^ Marcoleta, Harvey (2010-04-24). "Jejemons: The new ‘jologs’". Philippine Daily Inquirer. http://lifestyle.inquirer.net/2bu/2bu/view/20100424-266068/gtJejemons-The-new-jologs. Retrieved 2010-04-30.
- ^ Nacino, Joseph (2010-04-26). "Jejemon in the Philippines". CNET Asia. http://asia.cnet.com/blogs/the-virtual-eye/post.htm?id=63018444&scid=hm_bl. Retrieved 2010-04-30.
- ^ Dinkins, Rodney R. (2010). "AMATEUR RADIO GLOSSARY: JARGON, ABBREVIATIONS AND TERMINOLOGY". http://www.ac6v.com/jargon.htm#H. Retrieved 21 September 2010.
- ^ Dinkins, Rodney R. (2007). "Origin Of HI HI". ORIGIN OF HAM SPEAK - FACT, LEGENDS AND MYTHS. http://www.ac6v.com/73.htm#HI. Retrieved 21 September 2010.
- ^ "Welsh-English Lexicon". Cardiff School of Computer Science. http://www.cs.cf.ac.uk/fun/welsh/LexiconWE.html. Retrieved 2008-07-15.