What YOLO Means and How to Use It

YOLO: You Only Live Once
YOLO: You Only Live Once. Neves / Getty

Question: What Is 'YOLO'? What Does '#YOLO' Mean?

You've likely seen 'YOLO' or the hashtag version '#YOLO' on Facebook pages, Reddit links, and meme photos. But what exactly does YOLO mean?

Answer: 'YOLO' is 'you only live once', a modern exclamation of enthusiasm that has reached viral meme popularity since 2011. If you add the pound sign (hashtag), #YOLO becomes a searchable keyword on Facebook and Twitter.

This expression is the evolution of the phrase 'carpe diem' ('seize the day').

It is used to inspire courage and bravery, or to justify doing something idiotic and embarrassing. You will see YOLO spelled with its four letters, as well as with the pound sign hashtag '#YOLO'.

Example of YOLO Usage:

(Lusinda): So, the two of us have decided to bungy jump this weekend at the indoor waterpark.

(Dirge): What? Are you crazy? 

(Lusinda): YOLO!

(Subzero): hahaha, awesome! I wish I had the balls to do that!

Example of YOLO Usage:

(User 1): There is a zip line in Las Vegas that I want to try. It goes something like 8 blocks over Fremont street.

(User 2): Wha? Hanging from a cable?

(User 1): Yes, check it out in this video here

(User 2): Dude you're nuts I would never do that

(User 1): YOLO!

Example of YOLO Usage:

(Emma): OK, this is really wacky, but Kevin and I are going to take the one chip challenge this weekend. The kids dared us!

(Joern): What's the one chip challenge?

(Tigs): OMG, you're going to do that? I watched this video on it and there's no way you could get me to do that! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UAQkpcHM__I

(Emma): hahaha, YOLO! Plus, our kids would never let us live it down if we didn't do it, because Sean's parents did it last week

Example of YOLO Usage:

(Greg): I can't believe Shauna talked me into going to a step aerobics class tonight

(McStraz): Props, dude! That will be a great workout!

(Greg): Umm, YOLO, right? Hah, if I vomit on the aerobics floor, I'm blaming you guys for telling Shauna about these fitness classes!

YOLO is one of many culture curiosities that propagate as memes and viral oddities on the Web.



RELATED: more modern internet memes are listed here.

Expressions Similar to YOLO:

  • FTW (For the Win!)
  • AMAZEBALLS (That's Amazing)
  • Ermahgerd! (Oh My God)
  • Epic Win! (That's Extreme and Memorable)
  • OMG (Oh My God)

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 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.