Man pointing with loser hand gesture on yellow backdrop

You’re scrolling on Twitter, and someone talks about “taking the L” on a brutal video game. What does it mean, and what is “L” short for? Here’s what the phrase means and how you can use it.

Take the Loss

The act of “taking the L” means taking a loss or losing. Depending on the context, it can mean literally failing at something or needing to accept one’s loss. In some situations, “take an L” can also be a synonym for the idiomatic phrase “taking one for the team.”

Unlike other internet slang terms, the way that you phrase this term varies between people and situations. “Take an L,” “took the L,” and “taking the L” are all valid ways of writing it. For example, if you’re describing the story of your friend waking up late for an important meeting, you might say that “She took the L.”

An L can involve any loss, including those related to sporting competitions, exams, professional endeavors, betting money, and dating. For example, someone who struck out at flirting with others online might be described as “taking the L.”

Where Does “Take an L” Come from?

The idea of “taking an L” has been around for a long time. While the phrase didn’t become widely popular until the mid-2010s, the first definition for it in Urban Dictionary dates back to 2003. The entry reads, “Stands for ‘Take the loss'” and provides an example involving taking an L on a history exam.

The phrase became prominent in various kinds of competitions, including sports tournaments and professional gaming. In post-game interviews, athletes would often describe losing as “taking an L,” which was how many people were first exposed to the phrase. Eventually, it made its way to social media, especially Twitter, where an “L” has been used to describe a wide variety of failures. If you look at the trends chart for the phrase, you might notice that the term gained popularity around 2016 to 2018.

Taking a W

The idea of an “L” to describe a loss comes from sports publications and broadcasts. When the media showed a quick view of a team’s recent games, they showed a “W” or an “L” to denote a win or a loss. People in sports media, such as athletes and reporters, eventually started referring to these as Ws and Ls.

People also refer to a win as a “W” or a “dub” for short. If a team wins a game, you might say that they “got a dub” or a “W.” While “W” isn’t quite as common as “taking an L” on the internet, you might still find it on social media websites and online sports communities.

Acceptance or Denial

Another way that the phrase is commonly used is to tell someone that they need to accept their loss and move on. For example, if someone has been proven wrong in an argument but refuses to accept it, other users might tell them to “take the L.” This means admitting their failure in that situation.

Some people also use it to describe someone who’s looking stupid or pathetic, especially online. For example, if someone is rude for no real reason, someone might describe them as “taking an L.”

“Take the L” can also be used to describe doing something that you don’t want to do. For example, if you’re bemoaning to a friend how you have to go to work early tomorrow, they might tell you, “Just take the L and go to work early.” While you’re not literally “losing,” it describes a situation where you’re doing something unpleasant.

How to Use “Take the L”

Use “take the L” in any situation that seems like an apparent failure. You can also use it when describing an unpleasant situation or when telling someone that they should accept a loss. You can also place a word before L to describe its size or difficulty, such as a “hard L” or a “big L.”

Here are a few examples of “take the L” in action:

  • “I took an L by completely oversleeping before an important meeting.”
  • “My team took a tough L last night. Hopefully, they’ll bounce back next time.”
  • “You’re completely wrong here. Just take the L already.”
  • “I know that it’s hard, but you have to take an L sometimes. You can’t win them all.”

If you want to learn more about terms that are popular on social media, then check out our articles about sus, GOAT, and catfish.

RELATED: What Does "GOAT" 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.
Read Full Bio »