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What is Internet Slang?

By R. Kayne
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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Internet slang includes expressions relative to networking technologies and computers in general. Though slang typically refers to words specific to a group, club, sport, hobby, or even a generation, in the broadest sense Internet slang also includes emoticons, or simple graphics typed with keyboard strokes. The most common of these is the “smile” produced by a colon representing eyes and a right-parenthesis representing a smile, read sideways. Acronyms are also part of the Internet lexicon.

Many Internet slang expressions combine networking terms with real-world terms to refer to particular types of Internet users. A few examples follow:

  • Internaut (Internet + astronaut): A veteran onliner with an academic knowledge of the Internet.

  • Cybernaut (cyberspace + astronaut): A person adept at online gaming communities that involve virtual worlds, simulations (sims) and cyberspace in general.

  • Digerati (digital + illuminati): Someone versed in digital technologies.

  • Netizen (Internet + citizen): A citizen of the Internet, or an enthusiast of online communities such as USENET newsgroups or Web forums.

  • Web surfer (World Wide Web + surfer): Anyone that engages in Web browsing.

  • Emoticons (emotions + icons) are yet another type of Internet slang. These simple keyboard pictographs can pepper text to indicate intonation so that a joke, for example, will be understood as such. With an emoticon one can indicate anger, laughter, teasing, crying, sadness, surprise, sarcasm, embarrassment and many other emotions.

An alternate to emoticons are Internet-related acronyms. In this case shorthand becomes a kind of Internet slang. Laughing out loud becomes LOL, as far as I’m concerned becomes AFAIC, and if you know what I mean is shortened to IYKWIM. There are literally hundreds of these acronyms.

Terms like “nerd” and “geek” can also be considered Internet slang, though they specifically emphasize a knowledge of computers. “Newbie” is slang for someone unfamiliar with whatever he or she is undertaking, whether it be entering a new gaming community or building a computer for the first time. The newbie might be highly proficient in areas outside the newly undertaken cause, or uniformly green.

Other types of Internet slang borrow offensive words from the real-world and apply them to the online community. A “troll” for example, is someone who disregards netiquette in a newsgroup, forum or chat room by attempting to start arguments or flame wars — more Internet slang for heated arguments that spiral out of control into personal attacks.

In some online communities or mailing lists Internet slang develops that is specific to the group or subject matter. As per netiquette, a list of these acronyms and their meaning should be available in the group’s frequently asked questions (FAQ).

As networking and its technologies grow, Internet slang will continue to evolve. Many websites archive general lists for netizens to refer to, available through any search engine.

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Discussion Comments
By anon34437 — On Jun 22, 2009

Internet slang is all of laziness.

By mentirosa — On May 14, 2008

How about noob (short for newbie) and my personal favorite, rotflmaopmp (short for rolling on the floor, laughing my [butt] off, peeing my pants)?

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