What Does IRL Mean? The Abbreviation Explained

By , Staff Writer
Couple Hike in Mountains IRL Abbreviation Explained
    Couple Hike in Mountains IRL Abbreviation Explained
    Thomas Barwick / DigitalVision / Getty Images
    Used under Getty Images license

At some point on your internet journey, you’ve most likely encountered the abbreviation IRL. The term most commonly means “In Real Life” and is generally used to distinguish something in real life from online or fantasy life. Explore the different meanings and uses of IRL for your next online conversation.

IRL as an Abbreviation

The popular initialism IRL consists of individually pronounced letters. It has become trendy in recent years but has been around since the early years of textspeak. It first rose to prominence in the early 2000s in internet chat rooms and forums and gradually became popularized in texting too. The term peaked in 2006 and has been consistently used in online communication since.

More recently, online users have begun using IRLto refer to people they interact with in person as opposed to someone they only know online. It can also be used to clarify that you are speaking about something that is really happening in your life rather than a hypothetical scenario.

The Impact of IRL

The abbreviation and concept of IRL have become so popular that they even inspired an app. The IRL app helps people connect and hang out in real life, using technology to bridge the gap between the online world and real life so that people can foster relationships in person.

Other Meanings of IRL

While “in real life” is by far the most common use of IRL, the abbreviation can be used to mean several other things. Some other popular uses for IRL include:

  • Internet Research Lab

  • Indy Racing League

  • Internal Representation Language

  • Independent Reading Level

  • Interactive Reader Language

Examples and Usage of IRL

Although it can be used in face-to-face conversation, IRL is most often used in text or online communication. Some examples of how you and others can use IRL to make this distinction include:

  • Have you ever met him IRL?

  • Wanna hang out IRL?

  • I’m sure it’s more fun IRL.

  • I’ve played the game online, but never IRL.

  • You seem nice. I’d like to meet IRL.

  • The internet’s great, but IRL is much more exciting.

Related Abbreviations

In addition to IRL, there are similar abbreviations that convey related meanings or expressions.

  • RL - real life

  • VR - virtual reality

  • IVL - in virtual life

  • MIRL - meet in real life

  • LMIRL - let’s meet in real life

  • IBF - internet best friend