I know that lol means laugh out loud, and lmao is laughing my ass off, but in what context(s) would I use these, and what are their fundamental differences?

Also, I talk with a lot of people (mostly teenagers) who use these acronyms, and if I think something that they say is funny, which one should I use?

I found after googling this that lmao is a stronger version of lol, but it does not say when or how to use them. Any help would be appreciated.

2 Answers 2


This is a subjective question. "laughing out loud" is less forceful than the cruder "laughing my ass off," but these are often used somewhat sarcastically, so sometimes the stronger version is used in a less funny situation. I think everyone would have their own interpretation of when to use each, so I don't think you'll get a clear answer on this one. Also there's variations like "looooool," "lolololol," and "lmaooooo," which make no sense but are used somewhat interchangeably with "lol" and "lmao," and almost equally as often.

  • '"laughing out loud" is less forceful than the cruder "laughing my ass off,"' --> exactly what i thought! but yeah basically the same
    – BCLC
    Commented Aug 12, 2022 at 10:31

If you think that the person you are writing to cares about "correctness" then you shouldn't be using "lol" or "lmao".

You can use either, in casual written contexts (text messages to friends for example) use lol for "quite funny" and "lmao" for "very funny".

Don't use them in speech.

Don't use letters, essays, emails to the boss.

They came into use in chatroom and bbs in the 1990s. I don't think many teenagers use them anymore, except ironically. "My mum was like 'lol' and she's trying to flex that she knows slang. She's so extra."

  • 1
    Mostly agree although I do think lol and lmao are still in wide use amongst teenagers. Throw "lolz" into the mix, too.
    – urnonav
    Commented Jan 6, 2021 at 0:22

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