Words at work

– 6 min read

Lol: what it means and how to use it

Holly Stanley

Holly Stanley


Who remembers the time when lol briefly meant lots of love? 🙋If not, your mom probably does or maybe even still thinks lol means that. Moms –– gotta love them, but not necessarily their take on text-speak.

The word lol is ubiquitous –– you’ve probably seen it just about everywhere digital and you may even use it yourself. 

But do you know how to use lol correctly? While you may use lol in texts and other instant messaging, you might have some doubts as to whether you can use it in more formal writing or even if it’s the best word choice for expressing humor. 

Let’s dive into the meaning, origins, and when to best use lol

What does lol mean? 

The acronym lol stands for laugh out loud. It means that someone found something so hilarious that they are laughing out loud. 

People began to use lol during the 1980s, and by the mid-1990s it was widely used in digital communications, including email, instant messaging, and online message boards. Later on, lol became widespread on social network platforms.

You’ve probably seen lol used in a variety of contexts –– lol can be used as a verb or an interjection, AKA a word that expresses strong emotion. 

Although the meaning makes it sounds like the expression should be reserved for exceptionally funny circumstances, you can use lol to show even just mild amusement. Thanks in part to its overuse, lol has lost some of its meaning over time. 

You’ll see lol used a lot in text messages, memes, and social media posts. You may see lol along with the tears of joy emoji 😂, or the smiling face with open mouth emoji 😆

How to use lol 

Since lol is a slang term, it’s best used for casual conversations, either electronically or in person. It’s not the right acronym to use in formal writing or meetings.

Lol is generally considered to be text speak because it’s normally only used in digital communications. 

Use the abbreviation when you find something funny or feel amused. Its definition –– “laughing out loud” –– may make you think that you can only use the acronym when something is so hilarious that you’re actually laughing out loud. 

But, thanks to its frequent use, most people use lol when they find something faintly funny or amusing. 

When reacting to something funny, lol is a stronger expression than ha or haha

Generally, you’ll see lol in casual digital writing instead of hearing it said out loud. But sometimes people might say lol out loud when they’re making fun of something or being sarcastic. 

If you’re saying lol out loud, it’s generally pronounced by spelling out the letters like –– el-oh-el. Some people also pronounce it like loll, giving the pronunciation a long o.

There are no strict grammar rules when it comes to capitalizing lol

As it’s an acronym, it’s technically correct to capitalize it LOL

But since it’s generally used in informal text speak, you’ll usually see it written as lowercase letters –– lol. 

Or you may see it written as a mix of upper and lowercase letters –– Lol.

All of these variations of lol are correct and acceptable:


→ Lol

→ lol 

If you want to express that something’s particularly funny, you could add extra letters to lol. For example: 

→ lolololol

→ Looooooool

→ Lollllll

When to use lol

People tend to use lol when responding to something funny. That could be a funny joke someone has just texted you or a video you’ve seen on Facebook. 

Here are some moments when using lol is appropriate: 

→ Reacting to a funny meme

→ Looking at a silly photo

→ Watching a funny video or tv show


Examples of using lol

→ Check out this meme lol. 

→ I LOLed so much when I watched Vince Vaughn’s new comedy.

→ Did you see that funny cat video that my best friend sent me? Lol.

Text language and abbreviations are best used between your close friends and family. You probably won’t want to use it in more formal situations like work or school. 

For instance, if a client, boss, or teacher sends you something funny, it may be best to respond with ha, haha or simply, that’s funny.

Using lol sarcastically 

Some people use lol sarcastically or in a  passive-aggressive way. For instance, you may see someone using lol sarcastically when they’re laughing at themselves or others. People may also use lol when something is so bad it’s funny. 

Examples of using lol sarcastically

→ This physics assignment is so fun, lol

→ OMG, I just failed my driving test for the third time, lol.

→ You want to have children next year? Lol

→ I had to give a presentation to my old high school last week and I tripped while making my way on stage, lol.

What else can lol mean?

Some people may think lol means “lots of love” or even “lots of luck” — we’re looking at you, Mom. But most English speakers understand lol to mean “laugh out loud.” 

Using lol to mean “lots of love” or “lots of luck” may seem outdated or even sarcastic. To make sure you’re accurately communicating what you want to say, it’s best to use lol to mean “laugh out loud” or “laughing out loud.” That way you won’t accidentally cause any misunderstandings.

Lol alternatives

Maybe you think lol has been used so much over the past few years that it’s lost its power. Perhaps you want to say something stronger and less PG than lol. Whatever your reason for seeking out a lol alternative, there are a few choices so you can precisely express what you want to say. 


This means, “laughing my a** off.” The LMAO acronym is notably stronger than lol, and most people use it to talk about something they found hilariously funny. 

It’s not PG, though, so take care who you use it with — it’s not a word to text your boss accidentally!


This version is the same as LMAO, but with the f-word. Adding in the profanity makes the expression doubly strong. 

Take care to only use this expression with people who you feel comfortable around and whose humor you know well. 

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