What exactly does "l33t" mean?

Or dare I ask?

It’s Cool Dood speak for Elite. you know Leet. E-Leet. L33t. It’s all the rage. If you want to speak it, but don’t wanna take the time to learn it. Here is a nice Translator for it.


It’5 jU5t 4 5y5+3m 0F Co|/||/|U||1C@t10n cR3@T3D bY 5o|/|3 BoR3D +e3||4G3 80Y$, 1’|) 9U3$S.


It is a warez d00dz transmogrification of elite.

l33t, 31337, or whatever variation translates to “elite”. Incidentally, 31337 = ELEET = Elite. It’s all based in the hacker paranoia (perhaps justified, I don’t know) back in the 80’s that the government was reading bulletin board systems and later internet messages for information about America’s hackers and crackers. Figuring that the computers being used to monitor were looking for particular words or phrases those in the know started using variant spellings, often involving character replacement with numerals or punctuation marks, in their postsings, e-mail, etc. Today, the system is mainly a parody of itself, being copied and emulated by young teens and the like who want to sound “k3wl” (ahem… “cool”) or those mocking the aforementioned young teens. Still, some remnants of its roots exist today – “pr0n” is a common replacement term for porn in order to get through parental filtering software, although I imagine by now those in the filtering department have caught on. Song titles are deliberately mispelled on Napster to avoid the filters, and bona fide hacker/cracker lingo (as opposed to 13yr old wannabe lingo) continues to expand. Silly as it is, that little word 31337 has a bit of a history behind it.

j00 4r3 5uCh 4 n3wb13 14m3r. h4h4h4h4!

oh… popularized by the “warez” (pirated-software) trading groups. different languages:

1337-5p34k: 4bcd3f6h1jk1mn0pqr57uvwxyz
É£¡†é: åß©d€ƒGH¡JK£MñøþQR§†µVWXÿZ

Exkweezeme, but I would appreciate it if you not associate the word “hacker” with the imbeciles who say things like ‘l33t’ and ‘k3wl.’ They are not hackers, they are imbeciles.

Hackers know how to spell. Usually.

Regardless of their spelling abilities, the roots are the same. Today’s “l33t-sp34k” is based on the tactics used in the 80’s by hackers to circumvent detection by federal bodies. I thought I made it clear that today’s usage of such language is basically a joke of what it once was and the d00dz using it today are pretty much clueless and are just doing it because their buddies on #ph4tW4r3z are talking the same way, but that doesn’t change its origins.

Interestingly enough, the younger persons (teen boys, I’m trying not to stereotype too much) in my online gaming group:

A. use the 133t-speak, so much so that it took me ages to understand what they were saying;

B. agree with Friedo’s comment, that they are most certainly not hackers, as they respect the skills of hackers very much and would not consider themselves worthy of that title (I wouldn’t go so far as to say they think of themselves as “imbeciles,” though);

C. and thus, call themselves “haxors” (also spelled hAx0rs, h4x0rs, and about a million other variations), which to them, means people (again, teenage boys, from the best I can figure) who like to play around source code, but are not hackers.

While I sometimes want to tear my hair out when I see this, I am a little intrigued by how quickly this form of slang delveloped, how “fluent” these kids are in it, and how quickly it is changed and modified within little subsets of people. While some of it has creeped into spoken language, its roots are entrenched in written language. matt_mcl, from a linguistic point of view, is that unusual?

Sorry, but I put this here since the search i did is related to this thread. I did an “alltheweb” search on “pr0n” (strictly academic, mind you) and guess what the first hit was? Lego porn! Can this be worthy of a Weird Earl’s? Anyhow, back to your regularly scheduled discussion.

As easy as it is to dismiss l33t speech as the ramblings of 13 year olds, it really is facinating. When oyu get down to it, l33t speech is play and as a future English teacher I find it heartening to see kids play with the language. Th exact same skill set that lets you look at language, tear it apart, and put it back together in a different form is used to be a good writer and a good analylist.

There was a thread on this already:


Also, if we are talking l33t links, this one is definitly worth looking at:

Daily Victim

The definitive answer to your question can be found in the Jargon file, a compendium of how hackers really speak.

I seriously doubt that “l33t-sp34k” (gah, it’s hard to bring myself to even type that) had its origins in trying to beat filter programs. Any fool with a copy of grep can search for ‘[h#][a4@][cx]k[e3]r’ just as easily as for ‘hacker’

Shoot me now! Just looking at it I saw You are such a newbie lamer hahahaha

I have posted a thread on the subject myself, in which KKBattousai was incredulous of my claim that this phenomenon has become associated more with gamers than with hackers. Now in this thread, we’ve got people who are incredulous about the hacker angle. Hoo boy.


I like the story, but it does smack of legend more than of fact. Can you provide a cite? I recall that even as of 1990, I had the distinct impression from jargon.txt that this sort of thing was considered immature by the hacker community at large and marked one as a not-too-bright newbie.