What LOL Stands For and How to Use It

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

Theresa Chiechi ©Lifewire

"LOL" is one of a few common acronyms for laughter. It stands for "Laughing Out Loud."

You will also see variations like LOLZ, LML, and LULZ (a version of LOL, ROFL (Rolling on Floor Laughing), and ROFLMAO (Rolling on Floor, Laugh My Ass Off). In the United Kingdom, PMSL is also a popular version of LOL.
"LOL" and "LOLZ' are often spelled all uppercase, but can also be spelled "lol" or "lolz". Both versions mean the same thing. Just be careful not to type entire sentences in uppercase, as that is considered rude shouting.

An Example of LOL Usage

(User 1:) Bwahahaha! The pizza man just came to my door, and he was wearing pink pants and cowboy boots!

(User 2:) LOL! That is some kind of fashion sense! ROFL!

Examples of LOL and NSFW Expression Usage

(User 1): So, I just downloaded a copy of the latest Star Trek movie. Or at least what I thought was Star Trek.

(User 2): Was something wrong with your download?

(User 1): LOL, it was a porn version of Star Trek! Totally NSFW, and I almost embarrassed myself by playing the video on my iPad. Good thing I had the volume off!

(User 2): Whew, close call! Don't be doing that kind of thing at the office, you could lose your job!

(Person 1): LOL! This Chelsea Handler comedian is something else. I can't believe she says this stuff on television!

Person 2): She's pretty raunchy?

(Person 1): O man, this is absolutely NSFW. Do not view this on your work computer, or you could lose your job.

(Person 2): LOL. What kinds of stuff does she say?

(Person 1): I think I'll let you just watch one of her episodes and you decide for yourself!

The LOL expression, like many other Internet expressions, is part of online conversation culture.

Expressions Similar to LOL

  • CTFU (Cracking the F*** up)
  • LULZ
  • ROFL (Rolling on Floor, Laughing)
  • ROFLMAO (Rolling on Floor, Laughing My *ss Off)
  • 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)

How to Capitalize and Punctuate Web and Texting Abbreviations: 

Capitalization is a non-concern when using text message abbreviations and chat jargon. You are welcome to use all uppercase (e.g. ROFL) or all lowercase (e.g. rofl), and the meaning is identical. Avoid typing entire sentences in uppercase, though, as that means shouting in online speak.

Proper punctuation is similarly a non-concern with most text message abbreviations. For example, the abbreviation for 'Too Long, Didn't Read' can be abbreviated as TL;DR or as TLDR. Both are an acceptable format, with or without punctuation.

Never use periods (dots) between your jargon letters. It would defeat the purpose of speeding up thumb typing. For example, ROFL would never be spelled R.O.F.L., and TTYL would never be spelled T.T.Y.L. 

Recommended Etiquette for Using Web and Texting Jargon 

Knowing when to use jargon in your messaging is about knowing who your audience is, knowing if the context is informal or professional, and then using good judgment. If you know the people well, and it is a personal and informal communication, then absolutely use abbreviation jargon. On the flip side, if you are just starting a friendship or professional relationship with the other person, then it is a good idea to avoid abbreviations (like BTFO) until you have developed a relationship rapport.

If the messaging is in a professional context with someone at work, or with a customer or vendor outside your company, then avoid abbreviations altogether. Using full word spellings shows professionalism and courtesy. It is much easier to err on the side of being too professional and then relax your communications over time than doing the inverse.