What Does 381 Mean in a Text?

Expressing Love in a Text

There are over 100 novel ways to express love in a text message. Some of them were invented by the iKids (i.e., Millennials, Generation Z, and Generation A), making them just a few decades old, but many of them have been around for centuries. Here's the one that matters to you: 381 usually means "I Love You." It can also refer to the "381 Movement," an activist group.

I Love You

image for 381, showing a heart with the words I Love You

The number 381 is an numeronym widely used in text messaging and online chat with the meaning "I Love You." The figure 3 represents the number of words in the phrase "I Love You," the 8 represents the total number of letters in the phrase, and the 3 tells us the number 381 has only one meaning. For example:

  • Good night. 381 xxx
  • Have a lovely day at work. 381.
  • Just wanted to let you know I am thinking about you. 381.
The easy way to reply to 381 is of course with 3812! Other numbers used to express devotion in the same way include:
  • 143 - I love you (the number of letters in each word).
  • 721 - Love you (7 letters, 2 words, 1 meaning)
  • 831 - I love you (8 letters, 3 words, 1 meaning).
Numeronyms are used to communicate in this way for a number of reasons, including:
  • Speed: Using numbers can be faster than typing out full phrases.
  • Deniability: Expressing an emotion as profound as love without actually saying the words may allow the sender to deny they ever meant it. Either to avoid embarrassment, if the feelings are not reciprocated, or because they really did not mean it.
  • Discretion: Number codes can provide a layer of privacy, allowing people to share messages without being easily understood by outsiders.
  • Fun and In-Group Identity: Using specialized codes can be fun and can help strengthen bonds between a couple or within a group. It creates a sense of belonging and exclusivity among those who are in the know.
  • Tradition and Continuity: Some number codes have been used for decades, starting from early pager days and continuing into SMS and internet messaging. They are part of digital communication culture.
Check out our guide to text-speak using numbers.

Video Summarizing 381 as "I Love You"

Here's a short video explaining how to use 381 with the meaning "I Love You."

381 Movement

image for 381, showing a black fist

In June 2020, an activist group calling itself the "381 Movement" emerged in Richmond (Virginia), during the protests surrounding the death of George Floyd, who was killed on 25 May 2020, by Minneapolis (Minnesota) police officer Derek Chauvin. Organizers of the movement stated that the name was inspired by the 381-day-long Montgomery (Alabama) bus boycotts of the 1950s, and they would be protesting for 381 days. They explained, "... the 381 Movement aims to promote change and equality for the people of the world."

381 movement, #381movement

Video Summarizing the 381 Movement

Here is a short video summarizing the rise of the 381 Movement.

Image for 381

When I write 381, I mean this:

meaning of 381

In texting, 381 usually means "I Love You."

Summary of Key Points for First Definition of 381

"I Love You" is, by far, the most common meaning for 381 when it is used in a text. (Bear in mind that it could have another meaning if used in a different context.)
Definition:I Love You
Guessability:guessability level 5
5: Extremely difficult to guess
Typical Users:typical user

Adults and Teenagers

Summary of Key Points for Second Definition of 381

"381 Movement" is another definition for 381.
Definition:381 Movement (Activist Group)
Guessability:guessability level 5
5: Extremely difficult to guess
Typical Users:typical user

Adults and Teenagers

Examples of 381 in Sentences

Here is an example of 381 in a (shouted!) conversation:
  • Protestors: 381! 381! 381!
  • Police officers: We love you too!

An Academic Look at 381

image for academic look, showing a teacher with a mortar board

381 is an example of a numeronym, which is an abbreviation made up of just numbers or of letters and numbers. Numeronym have been used since long before the digital era. Many of the early ones were written on the envelopes of letters between lovers. They were often a coded message between the sender and the recipient, thought to allow secret expressions of love or passion. They can be formed in various ways, such as:

  • Shortening a word by replacing a sequence of letters with the count of those letters (e.g., i18n for "internationalization" and a11y for "accessibility").
  • Combining letters and numbers (e.g, K9 for "canine" and W3 for "World Wide Web").
  • Using numbers to represent letters or words (e.g., 143 for "I love you," 637 for "always and forever," and 5201314 for "I will love you for a lifetime").

Using Numbers in Texts

This video shows the different ways that numbers are used in "text speak":

Example of 381 Used in a Text

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