ELI5

What Does ELI5 Mean?

ELI5 means "Explain Like I'm Five."

ELI5 is a request to explain something in simple terms, such as a 5-year old could understand. It indicates that the sender has not grasped what was being said.

ELI5 can be used self-deprecatingly, but it is often used sarcastically, especially when someone is trying to make an excuse for something that they have done (or failed to do), or when a plan or idea is unnecessarily complicated. For example:
  • Stephen: I'll talk you through how to set-up the app, then we can play online.
  • Steph: Cool, but ELI5.
  • (Here, ELI5 represents a genuine request for a clear and simple explanation.)
  • Ali: Then Sam came in and insisted on buying everyone a drink, so then I had to stay to pay for my round. Then Chris bought another because it was Lee's birthday.
  • Bo: Yeah, right. I still can't quite grasp how you were forced to not come home until after eleven o'clock and weren't allowed to call to let me know. ELI5.
  • (Here, ELI5 indicates incredulity and sarcasm.)
  • Jordan: Whilst the pigment particles embedded in the plumage of some swans will reflect the vast majority of electromagnetic radiation from ~700 nanometers to ~400 nanometers, the plumage and structures in the feathers of others will absorb a high proportion of the wavelengths perceivable as white light.
  • Robin: ELI5
  • Jordan: Swans can be black or white.
  • (This example is taken from the entry for obfuscation fallacy on our sister site How To Get Your Own Way.)
ELI5 is similar in meaning to KIS (keep it simple) and KISS (keep it simple stupid).

The number 5 in ELI5 (meaning "5 years old") can be replaced with any number. Five is used most often, because it implies that the sender understands basic English, but is unable to grasp complicated concepts.

Summary of Key Points

"Explain Like I'm Five" is the most common definition for ELI5 on Snapchat, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok.
ELI5
Definition:Explain Like I'm Five
Type:Acronym
Guessability:
3: Guessable
Typical Users:
Adults and Teenagers

Image for ELI5

When I write ELI5, I mean this:

meaning of ELI5
ELI5 is a request for a simple explanation.

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An Academic Look at ELI5

ELI5 is typically used as a standalone imperative sentence (i.e., an order or request). It is not often used as a part of speech within a wider sentence.

ELI5 is an acronym (i.e., an abbreviation spoken like a word). It is pronounced "elly-five."

Acronyms differ from initialism abbreviations, which are pronounced using their individual letters.

What Did We Say before Texting and Social Media?

Before the digital era, we might have written something like "Please use layman's terms," instead of using ELI5.

Example of ELI5 Used in a Text

ELI5

See Also

Ways to Say I Love You Text-Speak Using Numbers AIUI (as I understand it) ASO (I understand (archetypal Japanese term akin to "oh, I see")) CAPISH (do you understand?) CLICK (to understand) GOTCHA (I understand (from "i've got you")) HUH (heels up harris, I am confused or surprised, do you understand?) IDU (I don't understand) IIUC (if I understand correctly)