Leetspeak, or "leet" for short, is a type of online jargon in which a computer user replaces regular letters with other keyboard characters to form words phonetically. Though it was originally used by hackers and gamers ("leet" is a vernacular form of "elite"), leet is used in the Internet mainstream in a variety of ways.
Leet words can be expressed in hundreds of ways, using different substitutions and combinations. Nearly all characters are formed as phonemes and symbols, while some are just based on what each number matches to on a cell
phone keypad. With a bit of practice leet isn't too difficult to translate. Here are a few key points for interpreting leetspeek:
Numbers and symbols often replace the letters they resemble, so for example, the term "leetspeak" could be written as "!337$p34k". The character "!" replaces the letter L, "3" poses as a backwards letter E, and "7" is the letter T, etc. Other examples of character/letter replacement include using "8" for the letter B, "9" for G, and the number 0 for the letter O.
Letters can be substituted for other letters that might sound alike. For example, the letter Z can replace the final letter S in the word "skillz". With the letter X replacing the letter C or K, the example becomes "sxillz". Then using numbers and symbols, leetspeakers might refer to their computer skills as "5x1llz".
Rules of standard English style are rarely obeyed. Some leetspeakers capitalize every letter except for vowels (LiKe THiS), or drop vowels from words (such as converting "very" to "vry"). Leetspeakers also often reject conventional writing style and grammar.
Mistakes are often left uncorrected. Common typing errors such as "teh" instead of "the" are left uncorrected or sometimes deliberately adopted to replace the correct spelling.
Non-alphanumeric characters may be combined to form letters. For example, leetspeakers use backward and forward slashes to create this shape "//" to stand for the letter M. Two pipe symbols combined with a hyphen ("|-|") can be used in place of the letter H. For example, by adding a character/letter replacement of the number 4 for the letter A, the leetspeaker might form the word "harm" as "|-|4r//."
The suffix "0rz" is often appended to words for emphasis or to make them plural. For example, "h4xx0rz" or "sk1llz0rz," are plural or emphasized versions (or both) of hacks or skills.
The culture of leetspeak encourages new forms and users award each other's individual creativity. The result is a dynamic written language that eludes conformity or consistency. Fortunately, there are a few standard leetspeak terms (although variations occur); here are some key words that are consistently used and haven't changed fundamentally since the invention of leetspeak:
d00d: Replaces "dude" and its variety of uses.
joo and u: Used instead of "you." Also written as "j00" or "_|00."
kewl: A derivation of "cool."
m4d sk1llz or mad skills: Refers to one's own talent. "m4d" itself is often used for emphasis.
n00b, noob, newbie, or newb: Combinations synonymous with new user. Some leetspeakers view "n00b" as an insult and "newbie" as an affectionate term for new users.
ph: Often transposed with "f." For example, leetspeakers might use the spelling "phear" for "fear" ("ph34r my l33t skillz") or spell "phonetic" as "f0||371(." Illegal Internet activities, such as phishing and pharming, are often named using this convention.
pr0n: An anagram of "porn," short for pornography.
pwn: A typo-deliberate version of "own," a slang term often used to express superiority over others, for example, "//3 pw||3d _|00" (we own you).
roxx0rs: Used in place of "rocks," typically to describe something impressive.
sploitz (short for "exploits"): Vulnerabilities in computer software used by hackers.
warez or w4r3z: Illegally copied software available for download.
w00t: A celebratory cheer similar to "yay" or "woo-hoo!"
One of the hallmarks of leet is its unique approach to orthography, using substitutions of other characters, letters or otherwise, to represent a letter or letters in a word. For a comprehensive Orthography Guide as to which symbols correspond with English language letters, visit the "Wikipedia" link below ;-)
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