What Does LOL Mean?

How to understand and use this abbreviation

An illustration of 'LOL' used in a conversation on a mobile phone.

Theresa Chiechi / Lifewire

LOL stands for "laughing out loud." It's one of a few common internet acronyms that convey laughter.

Variations on LOL include LOLZ, LML, and LULZ. Other acronyms that denote laughter include ROFL ("rolling on the floor laughing") and ROFLMAO ("rolling on floor, laughing my a** off). LOL is a staple of online conversation culture.

LOL and its many similar acronyms are often spelled in uppercase letters, but lowercase spelling is perfectly acceptable and means the same thing.

When communicating by text, email, or chat, be careful not to type entire sentences in uppercase letters, as this is considered to be shouting, which is rude.

Examples of LOL Usage

Example 1:

(User 1:) My daughter came all the way home to get her backpack, then had a snack and left without it! LOL!

(User 2:) LOL! Guess the snack was important too!

Example 2:

(User 1): This is so cute! My cat just stole the dog's bed and now he's looking at me like he's saying do something! LOL!

User 2): LOL! The cat's the alpha for sure! ROFLMAO

Expressions Similar to LOL

  • CTFU ("cracking the f*** up")
  • LULZ
  • ROFL
  • ROFLMAO 
  • LMAO ("laughing my *ss off")
  • ROFLCOPTER ("Rolling on floor, turning like a helicopter")
  • HAHA (laughter)
  • BWAHAHA (maniacal laughter)
  • MWAHAHA (evil laughter)
  • PMSL ("p*ssing myself laughing")

Capitalizing and Punctuating Web and Text Abbreviations

Capitalization is a non-concern when using text abbreviations and chat jargon. Use all uppercase (ROFL) or all lowercase (rofl) letters and the meaning is identical.

Proper punctuation is similarly a non-concern with most text message abbreviations. For example, "too long, didn't read" can be abbreviated as TL;DR or TLDR. Both are acceptable.

Never use periods (dots) between your acronym letters; it would defeat the purpose of being a shortcut. For example, ROFL would never be spelled R.O.F.L., and TTYL would never be T.T.Y.L. 

Recommended Etiquette for Web and Text Jargon 

When tempted to use jargon in messages, evaluate who your audience is, if the context is informal or professional, and then use good judgment. If you know someone well and it is a personal and informal communication, then absolutely use abbreviations. On the flip side, if you are just starting a friendship or professional relationship, avoid abbreviations until you've developed a relationship rapport.

If messaging in a professional context with someone at work, or with a customer or vendor outside your company, avoid abbreviations altogether. Spelling out full words shows professionalism and courtesy. It is much smarter to err on the side of being too professional at first, and then relax your communication over time organically.