The initialism YMMV is common online. You’ll see it frequently on social media, and in text messages and website comments. Unsure what it means? That’s what we’re here for!
What Does It Mean?
YMMV stands for “your mileage may (or might) vary.” This acronym is frequently used to refer to the differences between people’s experiences, preferences, or locations. It’s similar to AFAIK: “as far as I know.”
It’s also a fairly common phrase in real-world conversations. The literal version, which refers to the actual gas mileage a vehicle gets, is a helpful disclaimer. Even if two people drive the same car, they might get different gas efficiencies based on their driving habits.
The History of YMMV
Unlike other initialisms, which were invented and grown on the internet, “your mileage may vary” goes back to the 1970s and ’80s in the U.S. During that time, automobile manufacturers frequently promoted their estimated mileages to compete.
However, due to the variations in driving conditions, they had no way of guaranteeing the exact mileage customers would actually get. Therefore, these ads would feature the disclaimer, “Your mileage may vary.”
This phrase continued to be used in general conversation, and eventually became a common American idiom. It likely became an initialism in the ’90s or ’00s, when people started shortening language on internet platforms, like internet relay chat (IRC) and instant messengers (IM).
Usage of YMMV continued to grow, and now you’ll often see it in Yelp and Amazon reviews, tweets, and message boards.
Comparing Products and Services
You’ll often see YMMV in online product reviews and buyer’s guides. In this context, reviewers are attempting to temper a reader’s expectations, as personal experiences with the same product might vary.
If you’re writing a review of a mobile phone, for example, you might say, “the battery life generally lasted the whole day, but YMMV.” This implies battery life will depend on your usage habits. If the screen and mobile data are frequently on, the battery will probably deplete much faster.
You can also apply this phrase to products or services that might not be entirely consistent for every purchase. For example, if you order food through an app, the quality of it at the time of delivery will likely vary, depending on how far you are from the restaurant. So, “your mileage may vary” depending on your address.
The Purchase Experience
In addition to differences in products and services, YMMV can also apply to the actual purchase experience. One example would be if someone says they managed to get a discount code for a shopping site sent to their email. Everyone might not get that code, so that person might state that “your mileage may vary.”
For another example, let’s say someone posts on a message board that a particular video game is 50% off at their local Best Buy. While this is helpful information, there are a ton of Best Buys across the U.S., and the game might not be discounted at all of them.
YMMV would work in this situation to signal that people should manage their expectations.
Differences in Opinion
Another common use of YMMV is to account for differences of opinion, especially when discussing art and entertainment. If you recommend a terrifying horror movie, you might say, “I thoroughly enjoyed how terrifying this film was, but YMMV.” This implies you’re taking people’s varying tolerance of scares into consideration.
This is the kinder version of IMO (“in my opinion”) or IMHO (“in my humble (or honest) opinion”), respectively. In this usage, YMMV conveys that tastes can vary wildly from person to person.
How to Use YMMV
“Your mileage may vary” is pretty simple to use. If you’re having trouble, swap it out for “but your experience might be different,” and you’ll get essentially the same meaning.
Here are a few ways you can use YMMV:
- This laptop feels quite heavy in your hand, but YMMV.
- I managed to get the $5 deal around noon at my local branch, but YMMV.
- I absolutely love the band’s new album, but YMMV.
- YMMV, but it took about four days for the package to arrive.
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