"LOL" in a green word bubble on an orange background
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The term “LOL” is a staple of internet and text message conversations far and wide. Where did this legendary three-letter abbreviation come from, and how do you use it? Find out here.

Laughing Out Loud

LOL means “laugh out loud” or “laughing out loud.” It means that something is funny or made you laugh.

It is one of the most famous acronyms on the internet and is used in nearly every part of the web. Because of its popularity, it’s even used during in-person conversations and has gained an entry in many English-language dictionaries.

You can also use “LOL” as a verb. For example, if you want to convey that something made you laugh in the past, you might type “I LOL’d.”

Note: The term “LoL” may also stand for League of Legends, a free-to-play online multiplayer game you can download for Windows or macOS.

An Internet Classic

As the most prolific internet slang term, LOL has a storied history. The first instance of LOL being used to mean “laugh out loud” in a digital medium goes as far back as the 1980s on a Usenet server. As the internet grew, the usage of LOL grew as well, becoming one of the most common abbreviations on internet chatrooms, instant messaging apps, and social media websites across decades.

Its legacy as a crucial piece of internet slang solidified in 2011 when Oxford University Press added it to the Oxford English Dictionary. Since then, it has spawned many variations and has been used countless times, sometimes straying away from its original use as an initialism to show laughter. In recent years, users have transitioned from using the uppercase “LOL” to the lowercase “lol,” however, there are some subtle differences between the two.

LOL Variations

Someone laughing while looking at a phone.
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The widespread popularity of LOL has led to the creation of many different variations and related slang terms. Some of the more common related terms include ROFL and LMAO, which mean “rolling on the floor laughing” and “laughing my ass off,” respectively.

Other versions of the term have emerged from distinct parts of the internet. Some well-known variations of LOL include “lul,” “lel,” and “lolno.”

Furthermore, the widespread adoption of emojis and the popularity of emojis related to laughing can likely be traced back to LOL. In particular, the “Face with Tears of Joy” emoji (😂) has become an internet staple and conveys a very similar meaning to LOL.

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Changing Meaning

An illustration of LOL chat bubbles.
Denis Gorelkin/Shutterstock.com

Like many internet acronyms, the meaning of the word “lol” has shifted over time.

Nowadays, one common use of the word is an online sentence filler, similar to how people say “um” or “like” in speech. Many people will send the word “lol” before or after a message without really thinking about it. For example, you might say, “I had pizza for lunch, lol.” While there is nothing inherently funny about that message, it might show silliness, sarcasm, or indifference based on the context.

LOL also changes meaning based on how it’s capitalized. The uppercase “LOL” often conveys actual laughter or finding something hilarious. On the other hand, the lowercase “lol,” which is more common, is often used to express non-committal amusement, interest, or nothing at all.

There are even ways to use lol negatively. Sending nothing but “lol” in response to someone’s message can be a subtle hint that you don’t find what they said exciting or relevant to you. Alternatively, replying with “lol” to a supposedly serious message shows that you’re not taking what they’re saying that seriously.

How to Use LOL

To use LOL, insert it into your messages whenever you find something amusing. If something genuinely made you laugh, use the uppercase LOL. On the other hand, if something is just a little funny, use the lowercase lol.

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The acronym is quite well-known outside of internet circles, so you can also say it aloud in conversations in place of actual laughter. However, be careful when using it in professional environments, as it’s considered relatively informal.

Here are few examples of LOL in action:

  • “LOL! I’m cracking up!”
  • “There’s no way I’m doing that lol.”
  • “Run a marathon? I can barely go up a flight of stairs, LOL.”

If you’re interested in learning more about crucial terms in internet history, check out our articles about Meatspace, Leetspeak, and JK.

RELATED: What Does "Meatspace" Mean?

Vann Vicente Vann Vicente
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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