Capitalized or lowercase, LOL is an abbreviation for “laugh out loud,” an indication of humor or cheerfulness. Abbreviations like LOL gained popularity in the early 2000s with the rise of informal, text-based communication. Platforms like chat rooms and online video games created an environment for LOL and similar abbreviations to become an integral part of popular culture. Variations of LOL include ROFL (short for “rolling on the floor laughing”), lolz, lulz, lawl/lawlz, lolwut, and more explicit alternatives.
LOL is perhaps the most common abbreviation still widely used today, despite the fact that technological innovations have made it easier to type in longform and most text messaging is no longer restricted by character count. Today, there are many means of expressing laughter from GIFs to emoticons/emojis to simple onomatopoeia so the connotative meaning of LOL has shifted slightly since the heyday of shorthand texting. In most modern contexts, LOL has become a representation of slight amusement or a signifier that the message should be interpreted lightheartedly.
It’s worth noting that LOL is best reserved for informal communication. Emails, corporate memos, blogs, and similar forms of communication are typically too formal for texting shorthand. As such, the use of LOL in those mediums is usually regarded as unprofessional.