What Does 'TLDR' Mean? The Slang Meaning & How To Use It

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What Does TLDR Mean? Slang Meanings & Definitions

Someone links you to a must-read article that has more pages in it than Tolstoy’s War And Peace, or sends you a text that requires you to scroll so much that your fingers get a workout. How do you respond?

Do you decide to read it and take notes for an informed response, come up with a generic reply, or cut to the chase and let them know there is no way your attention span can make room for whatever they just sent you?

If you choose to cut right down to it, using "TL;DR" is your new go-to blunt response that will let your social media pals know you mean business.

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If you’ve seen this in the comments section of a social media post  or worse, had someone send this to you after you DMed them a heartfelt, personal message  you’ve probably found yourself wondering what the heck this means.

Here’s everything you need to know about this slang phrase, where it came from, and how to use it. 

What does TLDR mean?

Also stylized as "TL;DR," this acronym stands for “too long; didn’t read.” It’s a slang word for those who are so pressed for time that they can’t even comprehend having to type out these 4 words.

This is for people who need fast keyboard fingers and quick replies. It’s for people who have such an aversion to words that they have come up with an abbreviation that prevents them from having to even interact with their own vocabulary.

In fact, if you’re someone who believes in the power of TL;DR, you probably haven’t even read this far in this article!

Some might call this response cut-throat, but really, it’s just a not-so-gentle reminder that the world is moving too fast for us to waste our time reading dragged out Facebook statuses or news articles that don’t reveal all in their headlines.

People with TL;DR in their vernacular are Twitter users whose opinions are expressed in 280 characters or less. They text with emojis instead of words and don’t read books. This slang term in all about being clear and concise, and straight to the good stuff without all the extra padding. 

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What is the origin of TLDR?

Like most internet trends, we don’t really know where this slang term started.

Urban Dictionary first added it to their site back in 2003. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, who accepted the word in 2018, says the term began in 2002, but has no evidence to support this claim.

It’s likely that the word first originated in forums and chatrooms that ruled the internet in the early 2000s. If you were on MySpace, Friendster or 4Chan, you probably already know exactly what TL;DR means and have used it many times.

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Google Analytics history shows searches for the terms “TL;DR” and “TLDR” on a slow rise since 2004, but since there is no data available prior to that year, we have no way of truly knowing when this word first emerged.

What this does show is that the word is almost as old as the internet itself, and it's certainly not on the way out anytime soon!

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How do you use TLDR?

Given that this abbreviation is here to stay, you might as well add it to your list of quick-witted, snarky responses to use when someone is totally dragging you down with their boring internet content. But it's possible to use this term constructively so everyone gets efficient information.

Here are a few slightly less passive-aggressive ways to use TLDR.

1. Use it followed by a request for a summary of the most valuable information from whatever it is you didn’t read. 

“Hey, tight on time. TLDR, could you let me know the key points of this piece?” 

2. Use it as a warning to readers at the start of your post when you’re sharing a long-form text piece.

“TLDR: this piece covers why we as a society need to increase our attention spans.”

3. Use it as a summary for people who have scrolled to the bottom of a piece without taking in all the relevant information.

“TLDR, see paragraph 3 for main points.”

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Alice Kelly is a writer with a passion for lifestyle, entertainment, and trending topics.