TMI initials in comic speech bubble style

Have you ever been told “TMI!” while you’re talking about your latest medical procedure in great detail? Here’s what it means and why you might want to tone down the organ talk.

Too Much Information

TMI stands for “too much information.” It’s often used in online chats and text messages to tell someone that they’re sharing way too much about themselves. TMI is always said as a response rather than a way to start a conversation.

Often, someone has crossed a line and gone into overly personal or uncomfortable topics, and you’d like to divert the conversation before it gets too far. For example, they’ve divulged details about their body, health, intimate relationships, or personal matters. Depending on how well you know someone, that might be worth a “TMI.”

Compared to other internet acronyms, TMI is often said out loud in real life, especially by young people. That’s likely because its spelled-out counterpart is long and wordy. You’re likely to hear someone saying “TMI!” when they hear something that they find inappropriate or revealing in an in-person conversation.

It’s often written out in the uppercase “TMI,” but you can also spell it out in the lowercase “tmi.” It bears some similarity to other internet slang terms, particularly “TIHI,” which stands for “Thanks, I hate it.” Both refer to subjects or details that are uncomfortable to hear about. However, TMI specifically refers to revealing personal details about someone that you’d rather not know.

The Origin of TMI

Similar to other internet acronyms, TMI was invented in the early days of the internet. During this time, online webchats and forums started to take off, and people needed shorthand slang terms in order to type and converse faster. Therefore, TMI was invented to replace the significantly longer full phrase.

The first definition for TMI on the online internet repository Urban Dictionary was created in 2002 and reads, “Too Much Information – way more than you need/want to know about someone.” Many of the examples in the entries for TMI cite conversations related to various bodily functions.

Since then, TMI has become an extremely common acronym, both online and offline. It’s no longer limited to instant messages. People use it on social media, online forums, and even discussions over the dinner table with their parents.

Way Too Personal

A woman looking on in disgust.

One question that you might have is, “What exactly counts as too much information?” Well, that often depends on the person. However, what’s common about TMI scenarios is that the listener would rather not have heard that piece of information at all. As one Urban Dictionary entry eloquently puts it, it’s a situation where “Knowledge is not power, just disturbing.”

For example, let’s say that you’re discussing something with a friend when they suddenly tell you about their bowel movement in great detail. Not only is that quite disgusting to hear about, but you feel like you’re finding out way too much about your friend. In this situation, you might say “TMI!” to tell them to stop talking immediately.

You could say TMI when you don’t know someone that well, but they suddenly start telling you about intimate, personal details. You could tell them “TMI” to inform them that they might be taking the relationship too quickly.

You could also use “TMI” to refer to these types of conversations in the third person. If you recently had a conversation with a friend that was way too detailed, you might tell a family member, “My friend gave me TMI yesterday.”

Information Overload

A man looking frustrated in front of a laptop.

Another less-common use for TMI is when you’re being overloaded with too much information. This happens when someone’s talking too fast or relating too many complex pieces of information, or when you simply don’t understand what they’re talking about.

For example, let’s say that you’ve asked a handy friend to explain to you how to make a simple home repair. They then go into a long lecture about the repair process, listing a bunch of tools and procedures that you’ve never heard of before. This might be a good time to say “TMI!” to tell them to slow down and explain things more simply to you.

How to Use TMI

To use TMI properly, simply use it in place of where you would otherwise say “Too much information.” Make sure to restrict its use to personal and casual scenarios. For more formal settings, saying “I don’t think that’s appropriate” gets the same point across while sounding more professional.

Here are a few ways that you can add TMI to your messages:

  • “TMI! I don’t want to hear about that!”
  • “Dude, TMI.”
  • “I didn’t need to know that. TMI.”

If you’re interested in learning about other online acronyms, check out our articles on BTW, SGTM, and JSYK. You’ll be talking like a digital native in no time.

RELATED: What Does "BTW" Mean, and How Do You Use It?

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Vann Vicente has been a technology writer for four years, with a focus on explainers geared towards average consumers. He also works as a digital marketer for a regional e-commerce website. He's invested in internet culture, social media, and how people interact with the web.
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