Grammar Monster
Grammar Monster

Learn More about LOL (Laugh Out Loud)


LOL Shouldn't Always Be Taken Literally


One of the major issues with communicating in the cyber domain is the absence of tone in the messages. To overcome this, people have learned to include icons or postambles (e.g., hugs, kisses and terms like LOL or ROFL) to ensure their messages are given some tone.

As a consequence, LOL should not always be taken literally. It is sometimes used just to show approval or to acknowledge something as witty. For this reason, terms like ALOL (actually laughing out loud) and LLOL (literally lol) have emerged to differentiate between a LOL for tone and actually laughing out loud.

Read more about inserting tone into messages.

Our Slide Show "The Evolution of LOL"

LOL Is an Acronym and an Abbreviation

Unusually, the term LOL (laugh out loud) is both an acronym and an abbreviation. In other words, it can be pronounced like a word ("loll") or pronounced using its individual letters ("El Oh El"). (The former makes LOL an acronym while the latter makes it an initialism abbreviation.)

Out Loud Is an Adverb Meaning Aloud

The expansion of LOL is not laugh out loudly. Using loudly would be a grammatical error because out loud is an adverb in its own right. (It means loudly enough to be heard.)

Out loud is very similar in meaning to the adverb aloud, which also means loudly enough to be heard but with the added connotation of more than whispering. Both out loud and aloud are quite different from loudly, which means strongly audible or even noisy.

Perhaps Laugh Should be Laughing

While lots of grammarians challenge the out loud part of LOL, the word laugh – from a grammatical perspective – ought to be the one under scrutiny.

The present participle laughing would seem a much better fit. This is based on the assumption that the whole phrase is [I am] laughing out loud. Of course, you could argue the whole phrase is something like [I have just let out a] laugh out loud, but that expansion of LOL does not sound natural.