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A Guide to Text Acronyms: What You Need to Know


By: Aubrey Love

Texting shortcuts, we have all seen them, and most of us use them daily. But how can I find out what WTV or MID stands for? Is there a dictionary I can reference?
The answer is yes, there are several dictionaries for texting shortcuts online and in bookstores. In this blog, we will cover some of the obvious and not so obvious terms and point to a few places that contain a plethora of texting acronyms/initialisms and their meanings.

Acronym vs Initialism

Perhaps the first thing we should get clear on is what exactly the difference is between an acronym and an initialism. Far too often, I see or hear people referring to initialisms like LOL as an acronym. LOL is not an acronym! It is called an initialism.

In short, an acronym is a combination of the first letter of each prominent or primary word that, in itself, makes a new word. As an example, the word LASER is an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Hence, we get the new word laser. Likewise, the word "SCUBA" is an acronym for Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus.

On the other hand, BTW which stands for or represents “By the Way” in the texting world, is an initialism since it does not form a new word. The letters BTW are the “initials” of the combined words “By the Way” and we pronounce them as initials or independent letters instead of grouping the letters to form a new word.

The easiest way to distinguish between the two is in the pronunciation. If you must call out each letter independently, then it’s an initialism. If the combined letters form a new audible, and/or pronounceable word, then that is an acronym.

With that clarified, let’s look at some common and not so common texting initialisms. It’s important to note that these initialisms can be upper or lower case without changing the meaning, but all caps could mean yelling. This could be out of anger, excitement, etc.

Common Texting Initialisms

“LOL” Of course, most of us know this one as Laugh Out Loud.
“OMG” Another very common initialism, Oh My Gosh.
“POV” This one has multiple meanings. Such as “Point of View”, or “Privately Owned Vehicle”, etc. it really depends on the subject matter of the conversation.
“AB2” About to
“BBL” Be Back Later
“CUL” or "SYL" See You Later
“DNT” Don’t
“IDK” I Don’t Know
“IMO” In My Opinion
“IMHO” In My Humble (or Honest) Opinion

Some Less Known Texting Initialisms

Well, lesser known to many of the baby boomer generation.

“TBH” To Be Honest
“AFK” Away From Keyboard
“OTP” On the Phone
“SMH” Shaking My Head
“ICYMI” In Case You Missed It
“NGL” Not Gonna Lie
“NGLFY” Not Gonna Lie For You
“HMU” Hit Me Up or Hook Me Up
“511” Too much information (a play on 411)
“WTV” Whatever
“WAGl” What’s Up

Parent Alert

This short section is for all the parents out there that can’t quite get what your kids are texting. There are a few codes kids put in disguise to let their friends know they can’t talk right now. Usually because the parent is listening or watching.

“PIR” Parent in Room
“P911” Parent Alert
“PAL” Parents are Listening.
“PAW” Parents are Watching
“PBM” Parent Behind (or Beside) Me
“MOS” Mother Over Shoulder (Mom’s watching)
“FOS” Father Over Shoulder (Father’s watching)

Here are a few text shortcuts that a parent can decipher to find out what their kids are saying to their girlfriend/boyfriend.

“BCOY” Big Crush On You
“121” One to One (Let’s meet in person)
“143” or “ILU” I Love You
“KOTL” Kiss On The Lips

Final Thoughts:

It’s a whole new world out there since the invention of cell phones. With that comes an entirely new way of communicating. Texting shortcuts have developed into a language of their own.

In the simulated text conversation below, we see a prime example of a conversation between a couple of young teens. The initialisms in bold are the actual message, the wording in parentheses is the definition. The usernames are purely fictional and are for demonstration purposes only.

User AspectGirl
HIG (How did It Go)
   User GirlStar
   OMG he KOTL (Oh My Gosh, he Kissed me On The Lips)
User AspectGirl
SMH (Shaking My Head)
DYF (Did You Freak)
   User GirlStar
   IWL WTV ( I Was Like, Whatever)

Learning the entire vocabulary of texting shortcuts would be the equivalent of learning a new language such as French, Spanish, German, etc. but perhaps a little easier. After all, it’s still English, it’s just broken down into a series of initialisms. As if trying to learn Klingon wasn’t hard enough, now we have texting initialisms to decipher.

For your reference, here are four links to some online dictionaries with an abundance of initialisms and their meanings.

Texting Dictionary Links:

Disclaimer: The information posted on blogs and vlogs by City National Bank is for educational and entertainment purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional or legal advice. City National Bank will not be held liable for any loss or damage of any kind in connection with this blog.

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