Top 15 Twitter Acronyms

by Alexander Howard on January 12, 2009

Most of the acronyms you’ll find on Twitter are borrowed directly from decades of net culture, developed as easy Internet shorthand on electronic bulletin boards (BBSes), IRC, IM, and email. Twitter’s integration with SMS naturally means that texting lingo is inherently part of the argot.

Twitter, like each online platforms before it, quickly evolved its own lingo. The 140 character limit necessarily forces concision. Unfortunately, that shortening can also hide meaning, especially if you’re at all new to Twitter. Below are the acronyms that I’ve encountered most frequently on Twitter over the years, along with appropriately short explanations.

RT = Retweet. See @danzarrella‘s RT research, @jowyang‘s RT post on WoM marketing & RT is the FWD of 2008. Dan recently created Tweetbacks; expect a ‘TB’ in the future.

PRT = Partial Retweet / Please Retweet
. In the first sense, PRT means the RT’ed tweet has been edited, usually to fit a username within the character limit.

OH = Overheard. ‘OH’ is commonly used at conferences or while traveling. OH indicates a quotation of someone else’s remarks. @overheard is all about the OH, like the way Overheard in the Blogosphere covers IT.

DM = Direct Message. DMs are Twitter’s email. “DM me” means take the discussion private. Twettiquette suggests long conversations should go into DMs. Note: Adding “DM” to the front of a tweet does NOT = a DM, at least yet. d username does. @techcrunch posted on the danger of DMFails.

@ = Reply to [username]
. @ can also be used expressing ‘at,’ as in location.

BTW = By The Way. BTW is an easy way to add an aside. It’s Twitter’s version of a segue.

FTW  = For The Win. Whatever the action or product FTW modifies is *good*. @RWW explained the origin of FTW, BTW.

FTL = For The Loss (or For The Lose). FTL is generally an expression of disappointment, disapproval or dismay. It’s the opposite of FTW.

IRL = In Real Life. What’s true on Twitter may not be true IRL. After all, on
the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog
.

FTF = Face to Face. FTF or F2F refers to an actual meeting in person, IRL. That can mean at a tweetup or other occasion where you might encounter other Twitterers.

IMHO = In My Honest Opinion. IMHO usually indicates that ‘This is an op-ed tweet, not a factual assertion.’ UPDATE: It can be argued that “Humble” is the more common meaning, but both are valid for IMHO. At least, IMHO, anyways. Thanks Richard Walker -ed.

YMMV = Your Mileage May Vary. In other words (IOW), what’s true in my experience (IMX) may differ from yours if you try ____ product/service/technique.

BR = Best Regards
. BR is a useful way of being cordial, particularly when making a
difficult request, submitting a complaint, or when introducing yourself.

b/c  = because. b/c is not the same as the blind carbon copy (BCC) used in email.

JV = Joint Venture
. A JV refers to a collaborative enterprise between Twitterers on a project.

LMK = Let Me Know. Tweet me back (TMB) when you have more information about a question or a decision on a request.

There you go. The top 15 Twitter acronyms, along with a few extra ones in the explanations. If you have others that you think should be included, add ‘em to the comments.

@verso & @ahockley maintain a whimsical wiki called the ‘Twictionary‘ where you can find more coinages.

NB (nota bene): You’ll find many other common text or chat acronyms on Twitter, like LOL, OMG or WTF. I’m guessing you’ve long since figured out what those mean. If not, check the long list of IM & chat abbreviations I helped compile for WhatIs.com.


Alexander Howard is a Cambridge-based technology editor for a B2B IT media company. Until this December, he was the associate editor for WhatIs.com, the online IT encyclopedia.

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{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

Richard Walker January 12, 2009 at 1:16 pm

I believe you’re mistaken about the H in IMHO. “Humble” is correct, and explains the difference between IMHO and IMO. Fake humility FTL :)

Seth Goldstein January 12, 2009 at 2:31 pm

Brilliant Laura!

Laura "Pistachio" Fitton January 12, 2009 at 3:22 pm

@seth thanks but this post is by our newest contributor Alexander Howard, aka @digiphile.

@richard that is correct, humble is the usage I’ve always heard

Alexander Howard January 12, 2009 at 3:32 pm

@reechard & @pistachio. Humble it is!

As I noted when I tweeted back to @reechard, H can mean many things.

I probably should have recognized that AcronymFinder.com’s entry for IMHO scores ‘humble’ above ‘honest,’ though it’s far ahead of Internet Media House, In My Holy Opinion, In My Hesitating Opinion, In My Highest Opinion or even the International Medical Health Organization, which probably has the most reasonable claim to the acronym. (I bet tracking their posts with an #IMHO hashtag could be challenging.)

Heck, even WhatIs.com’s entry for IMHO says it’s humble.

Consider me humbled!

Laura Fitton January 12, 2009 at 5:08 pm

A true point made by many… there are lotsa lotsa lotsa acronyms with F in them that we did not include. Perhaps we’ll do a “part II” post that *only* covers offensive ones. In the meanwhile @rands captured it concisely and eloquently (if acronyms can be eloquent)

“No WTF FTL: http://bit.ly/r61l

Tom January 12, 2009 at 10:44 pm

I take great offense to your mention that @ can be used @ a place. Do you realize how many tweets start with “@Tom’s place” and I get them because people don’t know the difference between an @reply and a non-reply? ONE EVERY SO OFTEN. But it’s still annoying.

Ari Herzog January 13, 2009 at 1:23 am

..acronyms you’ve “encountered on Twitter over the years?” Over the YEARS, Alex? Really? :)

I’ve never heard of 80% of these. Interesting.

Alexander Howard January 13, 2009 at 1:32 am

Really, Ari. I started Twittering when I first blogged about Twitter in April of 2007. I won’t claim any undue early adopter cred but I would hope ‘years’ isn’t too much of a stretch. ;)

Jeff Cutler January 13, 2009 at 1:34 am

@stevegarfield, @melissapierce and @gregverdino and @jeffcutler brainstormed at a #ces09 breakfast the acronym for sending a tweet again as RT-ing yourself is in questionable taste.

We came up with RERUN or abbreviated, RR.

LEMills January 13, 2009 at 1:49 pm

FWIW, they are actually abbreviations (letters that are named as letters), not acronyms (first initials that make a voiced word, such as SCUBA).

BR,
Linda

Alexander Howard January 14, 2009 at 9:34 pm

I’m HHIS, Linda. You’re absolutely right. I’ve been outed by a wiley grammarian! I know all too well that an acronym ‘is an abbreviation of several words in such a way that the abbreviation itself forms a word,’ like BASIC, COBOL or SOS. I chose the post title that I thought would resonate with the most readers. In retrospect, that may be FTL. Thanks for the correction!

missburrows January 15, 2009 at 1:18 pm

Don’t forget NSFW=Not Safe For Work

(I use that one a lot.)

and Twitcrush= Declaring a crush on someone on Twitter.

(twitcrush.com)

Robert Cain January 19, 2009 at 12:54 pm

You left out NSFW – Not Safe For Work – Very important when providing links to questionable material. This doesn’t necessarily mean pr0n either. Remember some places have VERY strict rules, and even something as simple as a curse word can get you in deep trouble with your employer.

Robert Cain January 19, 2009 at 12:55 pm

LOL looks like Miss Burrows and I had the same thought at the same time.

Roylan January 25, 2009 at 6:34 pm

Excellent, Laura. Thanks for the list.

Alexander Howard January 25, 2009 at 9:08 pm

@Robert, @MissBurrows & Rands The Top 10 NSFW Twitter Abbreviations went up today.

Parky January 31, 2009 at 8:43 am

There’s nothing new under the sun ;-)
These are the what we old ‘uns used to use in IRC last century!

Here’s some more, courtesy Geocities c. 2002.
http://www.geocities.com/CollegePark/Campus/4642/irchat.html
and even more here http://www.bobjude.co.uk/entertain/irc.html

Welcome to the 90′s, Twitter style!

@parkylondon

Peter C. Frank February 2, 2009 at 4:25 pm

Great half-list of 15 top Twitter acronyms. And I say half-list b/c half of the acronyms on this list I’ve known about for 15+ years; they’re not exclusive to Twitter but moreso general online-speak…

But thanks for the Twitter list (RT, DM, PRT, @, JV, TMB). BTW you should prob incl “Twit” and “Tweet” on this list…

Sai Gudigundla February 11, 2009 at 11:07 am

Great list. I think RTHX = Thanks for the ReTweet should be on the list. I use it all the time.

PeHaa February 16, 2009 at 9:15 pm

Great, thank you. I ‘arranged’ them into a wallpaper. To be downloaded from
http://pehaa.com/2009/02/twitter-acronyms-wallpaper-for-the-twitter-newbies/

Patrick March 27, 2009 at 4:19 am

I tried, I really did. I signed up for an account, read a few posts on a few blogs but honestly and HONESTLY, I really fail to see / understand / comprehend Twitter. I expect to be flammed a little, but I just honestly don`t understand it or why people would want to.

Obviously I`m in the dark about something that is very very big on the net

pedantic April 16, 2009 at 12:35 pm

IMHO = In my humble opinion. 10x more votes on urban dictionary: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=imho

Christopher Wulff April 23, 2009 at 4:50 pm

Technically they’re not abbreviations either, they’re initialisms. Abbreviations are the larger category containing both acronyms and initialisms.

Not to get too word-nerdy.

CW

Alexander Howard May 13, 2009 at 1:58 pm

Here’s an addition after today’s #fixreplies groundswell of reaction:

Use RE for @replies on Twitter

kontrabaso September 9, 2009 at 12:41 pm

How Can small businesses successfully use Twitter?

Kichigai September 22, 2009 at 4:24 pm

You forgot about “FML” (F*** my life!)

Bending Light September 25, 2009 at 1:11 pm

Does anyone know what HOBAT is?

Black Jack Shellac June 13, 2010 at 8:54 am

Definitely Humble, not Honest for IMHO. That abbreviation’s been around since the dark ages of the internets back in the 80s on internet news.

Branden Harvey March 29, 2011 at 3:38 am

Hilarious! And exactly what I needed to read.

Dennis January 14, 2012 at 8:33 pm

Does anyone know what the #MT stands for on twitter? I’m Confused!

Rocky January 18, 2012 at 9:39 pm

Patrick – no flame here. Twit’s not for everybody. If you tweet more than you read – and you’re not a spokesperson – you’re a narcitweetist. :-) But if you read more than you tweet, it can be useful. I get 5-second notifications of severe weather, big thinkers’ ideas, newsflashes, etc. Can scan many, many sources in 1-2 minutes. It’s like good e-mail – subject “blah blah EOM.” Basically an executive dashboard on the parts of the world I choose to follow. And perfectly suited to the small screen/bandwidth of smart phones, too.

Initialisms January 20, 2013 at 9:56 am

Not one of these examples is an acronym. They are all abbreviations, most of them known as initialisms. ABC, CBS, and NBC are examples of initialisms. SCUBA, AIDS, and NATO are examples of acronyms.

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