Woman laughing hysterically

Have you recently gotten a message that had the word “LMAO” in it? Or maybe you heard someone say it in person? Find out what this acronym means and how to use it.

Laughing My A** Off

LMAO means “laughing my ass off.” It is used when you want to show that you’re laughing a lot at something, such as a humorous message or meme. For example, if you receive a funny video, you might reply “LMAO” or pair it with a phrase such as “That’s hilarious lmao.”

It is closely related to two other acronyms, LOL and ROFL, which mean “laughing out loud” and “rolling on the floor laughing,” respectively. Many perceive ROFL as more intense and loud than LOL and roughly as expressive as ROFL.

A History of LMAO

LMAO can be traced back to the early 1990s, coinciding with the rise of internet messaging services like IRC or bulletin boards. The first definition for LMAO on Urban Dictionary was made in June of 2002, much earlier than other initialisms we’ve covered. On the other hand, the first entry for LMFAO is from 2003.

The acronym eventually became commonplace in every part of the internet, especially as instant messaging apps and SMS grew in popularity. Nowadays, lmao is part of an average internet user’s vocabulary.

LMAO Variants

Equally popular to LMAO is LMFAO, which means “laughing my fucking ass off” or “laughing my freaking ass off.” The two acronyms are used interchangeably and are roughly equal in terms of popularity. On the other hand, some people, particularly younger internet users, use the phrase “laughing my butt off” to avoid the pejorative in the original initialism.

Another variant is when combined with its fellow internet slang term ROFL to form ROFLMAO, which means “rolling on the floor, laughing my ass off.” You would use it when something is incredibly hilarious and warrants the effort to type all those letters.

Like other acronyms expressing laughter, the uppercase and lowercase versions of LMAO vary slightly in meaning. LMAO tends to express more uproarious, hysterical laughter, while lmao expresses a chuckle or a small laugh. You can also find many people using the lowercase “lmao” in texting as a filler word that comes before or after sentences and phrases.

LMAO in Culture

Because of its popularity, there are many memes and pop culture trends that use LMAO and its variants.

The most popular of these is a meme from 2016 called “Ayy LMAO.” This image macro depicted an image of an alien with the text “ayy lmao” under it for humorous effect. Because of the popularity of the meme, the phrase itself entered mainstream usage. To this day, many people say “ayy lmao” out loud to convey excitement or interest in something.

For a while, a viral musical act named themselves after the acronym. LMFAO was an electronic dance duo that was active from 2006 to 2012, roughly coinciding with the term’s entry into pop culture. The group released “Party Rock Anthem,” which has become one of the best-selling songs of all time.

LMAO has also entered the spoken language, with many people saying “lmao” when they find something funny instead of laughing. The word is commonly pronounced as “la mao” or something similar.

How to Use LMAO

If you want to use LMAO or LMFAO for yourself, use it whenever you want to express laughter. It can stand on its own or be paired with other expressions of laughs like gifs or emojis. Since the acronym is relatively informal, avoid using it in professional communications or e-mails. Keep it to personal conversations, such as those with your friends.

Here are a few ways you can use LMAO:

  • “LMAO did you see that guy tripping on a banana peel?”
  • “This is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen lmao.”
  • “LMFAO, no way!”
  • “Dude, your shirt is backwards lmfao.”

Curious about the meanings of other internet acronyms? Check out our pieces on TBH, FTFY, and ITT.

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

Profile Photo for 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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