What Does <3 Mean?

image for heart

<3 means "love" or "I love you." The characters "<" and "3" (which together mean usually mean "less than three") are used to form an emoticon representing a picture of a heart on its side. The <3 emoticon is used as an expression of love or deep devotion. However, it isn't always intended to be taken seriously! For example:

  • I <3 you.
  • Do you <3 love me?
  • I love you more than anything in the world. <3
  • I'm seeing Sam tonight. <3
  • I <3 New York.
  • It's chocolate o'clock! <3.
Even though emoticons have largely been replaced by emojis on most messaging apps*, <3 is one that has endured. Emoticons are now mainly used by "old schoolers," but some are popular with people of all ages. *In fact, most apps will automatically replace the emoticon <3 with the ❤ emoji anyway. This means that it can be faster to type an emoticon than have to look for and select an emoji.

More Terms Like <3

To add extra emphasis to <3, users tend to add extra 3s (e.g., <333 = I really love you). Likewise, this emoticon has inspired many others, such as: For a complete list of emoticons, check out our icons and emoticons page. Don't miss our interactive list of every emoji.

Why Is a Heart "Heart-Shaped"?

image for a heart with a question mark

You will know from your biology lessons that a human heart is not heart-shaped. Nevertheless, the classic heart shape (♥) is recognized globally as being a heart. The origin of the heart shape is difficult to determine. There are three leading theories:

  • 1: The heart shape comes from the shape of ivy leaves, which are linked to fidelity.
  • 2: The heart shape comes from the shape of breasts and the buttocks.
  • 3: The heart shape comes from the silphium plant (a giant fennel), which the ancient Greeks and Romans used as an early form of birth control. (Silphium's seed pod is heart-shaped.)

Why Does a Heart Mean Love?

image for heart with a question mark

The heart is globally recognized as a symbol of love, but why? The Greek philosopher Plato was among the first to claim that the heart was linked to our strongest emotions, including love. His observations undoubtedly derived from noting that our hearts beat in concert with emotions such as fear, anger, rage, pain, and love. Plato's student, Aristotle, expanded on his finding, claiming that the heart ruled over all human processes, not just emotions. Ever since, we have continued to associate love with our hearts.

Image for <3

When I write <3, I mean this:

meaning of <3

<3 is a heart lying on its side. It means "love."

Video Summarizing the Different Ways of Saying "I Love You"

Summary of Key Points

"Love" is the most common definition for <3 on Snapchat, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok.
Guessability:guessability level 1
1: Easy to guess
Typical Users:typical user

Adults and Teenagers

An Academic Look at <3

image for an academic look at point_left3

<3 is classified as an emoticon, which is a way to show emotion in text-based communication. Emoticons consist of a small group of symbols arranged to show emotions, such as happiness, sadness, anger, and others, using the letters, numbers, and symbols usually found on a standard keyboard in a typographic approximation of the desired illustration.

Using Numbers in Texts

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

Example of <3 Used in a Text

author logo

This page is maintained by the Cyber Definitions Editorial Team.

You might also like...

Help Us Improve Cyber Definitions

  • Do you disagree with something on this page?
  • Did you spot a typo?
  • Do you know a slang term that we've missed?
Please tell us using this form.

Share This Page

share icon

If you like Cyber Definitions (or this page in particular), please link to it or share it with others. If you do, please tell us. It helps us a lot!

Create a QR Code

create QR code

Use our handy widget to create a QR code for this page...or any page.