What Is Twitter™ Language?

Robert Grimmick

Twitter™ language is a collection of acronyms, phrases, and language conventions used on the online social networking service Twitter™. The language is a blend of official terms and user-generated jargon. Twitter™ language is many ways distinct from language used on other social networking sites.

Twitter™ emphasizes social interaction, so much of the Twitter™ language is used to interact with other users.
Twitter™ emphasizes social interaction, so much of the Twitter™ language is used to interact with other users.

Much of the core Twitter™ language comes from elements of the service itself. A “tweet” is the official term for a message posted on Twitter™, and a person who tweets is known as a “Tweeter” or “Twitterer”. To follow someone on Twitter™ is to subscribe to that person’s tweets. A direct message (DM) is a private message between Tweeters.

Twitter™ emphasizes social interaction, so much of the language is used to interact with other users. The “@” symbol before a username is used to refer to another Tweeter, a practice known as mentioning. Tweeters will also “retweet” other posts they find interesting. In a tradition known as “Follow Friday,” Twitter™ users will introduce their followers to other Tweeters.

Twitter™ users have proven to be an inventive bunch, and have formed much of the Twitter™ language themselves. The retweet, abbreviated RT in posts, was in common use long before it became an official feature. A hashtag, named for the # symbol before a keyword, #Iran for example, caught on as a convenient way to mark and find tweets on similar topics. The letters “OH” before a message mean a Tweeter is sharing something they overheard.

Twitter™ language can also be a tool in international communication. Conventions like the hashtag aren’t specific to English, so Tweeters of all backgrounds can use them. Some Twitter™ tools can even translate tweets automatically.

The 140 character limit, widespread use of smartphones, and real-time nature of the service have all greatly influenced the language. Journalists, politicians, and even educators among others often use abbreviations and slang in their Tweets that would never be accepted elsewhere. Shortcuts such as “wk” for “week” and “4” instead of “for” are commonly used to save both space and time.

The Twitter™ language also includes words and phrases morphed from English to take on a new meaning in a social networking context. The “Twitterati,” for example, are elite Tweeters who often have hundreds of thousands of followers. Other examples include tweetaholic, tweavesdropping, and dweeting, i.e., drunk tweeting. Twitter™ maintains a glossary of common terms on its website, and several other sites maintain their own dictionaries of the latest terms in the Twitter™ language.

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Discussion Comments


Don't forget about shortening words and using acronyms to make tweets fit!

Each tweet on Twitter only allows 140 characters which run out pretty fast. So everyone has to make it fit but making words shorter if they can. It's so common for people to write "B" instead of "be" or "2" instead of "to." There is a limitless number of these, and there are no rules. It just has to make sense!

Some others I can think of are "pls" for "please," "ur" instead of "you are," "n" instead of "and" and so forth.

There are even "Twitter recipes" which feature an entire recipe fit into 140 characters! With lots of shortened words of course!

I think Twitter hashtags are amazing. It brings so many issues to Twitterer's attention and in a way determines the topics for discussion.

I also love that we can view hashtags based on the region or globally, so we can see which topics are being discussed in different parts of the world.

There are even meetings held on Twitter through the use of hashtags. There is one hashtag for bloggers who meet up at the same day, same time every week to talk about various issues on blogging. Anyone who wants to participate in the discussion simply includes the hashtag in their tweet. And when you click on the hashtag, you see all the tweets with the hashtag which lets you follow the discussion...so cool!


Twitter language is definitely unique and it makes little sense to people who don't use Twitter or don't use it regularly.

I was also pretty confused when I first started out as I didn't know what things like RT (retweet) and #FF (follow Friday) meant. But now I use these all the time!

I also find it very fun when people make up their own words to refer to other Twitter users. Many famous people make up words for their fans and followers on Twitter. One which I think is cute is "tweethearts." Another celebrity says "Twitfam" to refer to his followers on Twitter whom he accepts to be part of his extended family.

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