Don’t be fooled—XD is not an acronym! It’s a great way to express yourself on the internet without busting out the emoji keyboard. Here’s what this text-based emoji means and how you can start using it.
Dying of Laughter
Despite it being two capital letters, XD is not an acronym or slang term. The letters don’t mean anything. However, if you turn your head to the left, you’ll figure out that it’s a text emoticon that forms the shape of someone smiling with an X for eyes. People usually interpret this emoticon as someone laughing with their eyes squinted. Alternatively, you can imagine it as an animated face with an X for eyes, like a visual metaphor for “dying of laughter.”
XD is one of the most enduring text-based emoticons in the history of the internet. Despite emojis largely replacing text-based emoticons in private messaging apps, XD has remained an enduring smiley that nearly everyone knows. Not only is it easy to visualize and type, but it’s also the most “cross-platform” emoticon around. Unlike emoji, which change based on which software or operating system you’re in, “XD” looks the same on every device.
You should take note that XD is only written in uppercase because it does not make the same face in lowercase. There’s a program in the Adobe Suite called “Adobe Xd” that lets you design user interfaces, so you should also avoid confusing it with that.
The History of XD
While this emoticon doesn’t have an exact origin story, it likely originated in the 1990s and early 2000s in IRC chatrooms and text-based message boards. The first definition for this expression on Urban Dictionary was written in March of 2003 and describes it as a “laughing face.” Eventually, it grew to widespread prominence during the age of IM, where it was one of the most common text emoticons alongside “:)” and “^_^.”
While emoticons started getting phased out in the 2010s, XD stayed on and was adopted by the internet meme community. It became the most common text-based emotion across various social media websites and internet communities. You’ll find it on plenty of internet memes across the years.
An Emoticon in the Emoji Age
You might be wondering — why is this text emoticon still so prominent, even when every operating system and messaging app already has an emoji system? You can attribute its longevity to two things: its lack of a completely equivalent emoji and its reputation as a massive internet meme.
If you pop open your emoji keyboard, you’ll notice emojis for pretty much everything… except for a smiling face with a cross for eyes. There’s an emoji called “Grinning Squinting Face” that depicts someone grinning with two eyes tightly held together, but it’s not quite as expressive or versatile as XD is. The Unicode Consortium has not made an equivalent emoji yet.
On top of that, since it has no precise equivalent, messaging apps that automatically convert emoticons to emojis will have nothing to convert it to. For example, if you type up “:)” in a modern messaging app, it will likely be converted to the basic smiling emoji when sent out. However, when you type up “lmao XD,” you’ll get the same text in every single app.
The other big reason is its place as an internet phenomenon in its own right. For nearly a decade, the phrase “LMAO XD” was the de facto internet phrase used to react to something funny, whether on a YouTube comment or in a message board. It became so common that it stopped being funny until it was rescued by the recent resurgence of “ironic humor” on the internet.
Unlike other emoticons that involved symbols such as parenthesis or colons, XD is comprised of two letters. You’ll often hear people in online videos say “Lmao XD” ironically to refer to something they found funny at the time or that other people find humor in. In these videos, commentators would say it phonetically, as in “Ex Dee,” which adds to the effect.
Nowadays, no one bats an eye when it’s mixed in with emojis and GIFs in a text thread. Saying “XD” is still a common way of expressing that you find something amusing nearly two decades after its invention.
How to Use XD
Using XD on your messages is pretty straightforward. The next time you reach for the emoji button on your phone, consider sending an XD instead! While it won’t have the visual fidelity of an emoji, nearly everyone will recognize XD as a funny, laughing face. XD doesn’t work in lowercase, so you’re going to want to hold the Shift key for this one.
Here are a few examples of XD in action:
- “LMAO XD, that’s hilarious.”
- “Wow XD I can’t believe it.”
- “Have you seen this super funny video? XD”
- “XD okay, you got me good that time.”
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