16 Common Dating Acronyms / Abbreviations – What They Mean

Kathleen CramptonKathleen Crampton
Kathleen Crampton
6 min read
Published in Dating 
Need to decipher a dating acronym that someone sent you? Look no further. We’ve compiled a list of common dating abbreviations to help you understand exactly what’s being said.

From LDR to PDA to IRL, the increasingly complex and, shall we say, confusing world of dating acronyms never seems to calm down. Just when you thought you knew almost all of them, more pop up and you find yourself going down Internet rabbit trails trying to define three little letters. And if you’re not a member of younger generations, you might feel like you’re left behind when trying to decipher what all of these acronyms mean. We get it! 

But these modern dating abbreviations are here to stay, so it’s time that you get comfortable with them. Read on for a list of common dating acronyms that you might encounter in your dating journey (we challenge you to use one in your next text or online message!). 


Define the Relationship

This is a super common dating term that’s been around for awhile. You’ll often hear it in the context of conversations with friends, like “Have you two had a DTR yet?” But you also might use this dating term if you’re unsure of where you stand with your significant other. Have you been seeing each other for a while without any movement toward naming the relationship? Then, you might text them that you want to have a DTR to be clear on where things are going.


Friends With Benefits

A common dating abbreviation that’s been around for years, FWB is another way of saying that you’re having a casual relationship that includes sex—without any strings attached. Maybe you’ve been friends with this person for a while or perhaps you just met. No matter how long you’ve known them, the emphasis on physical intimacy without the commitment commonly needed for a serious relationship is key for FWB.


In Real Life

You’ve probably heard and seen this modern dating acronym a lot in your dating journey. Perhaps the person you’ve been texting finally sends you a message that reads, “I think we should meet IRL.” Those three letters can signify a turning point in your new, casual dating relationship. 

But IRL is also used in non-dating communication and on social channels as a way to describe the difference between everyday life and your digital environment.


One-Night Stand

An ONS is a sexual encounter that only lasts for—you guessed it—one night. This dating term can have a negative connotation, depending on if one partner wanted an ONS and the other wanted something to continue afterward. But it all comes down to preference. Just make sure that you communicate with the other person after a sexual encounter if you’d prefer it to be an ONS; being ghosted is difficult to navigate, so let them know your intentions before ending communication.


Direct Message

Social media introduced us to the DM—and it has never looked back. If you’ve ever heard someone describe how they met their significant other with the dating slang, “They slid into my DMs,” that means that the person sent them a DM on social media (like Instagram or TikTok) with the intention of sparking a romantic connection.


Ethically Non-Monogamous

This dating acronym is typically used on dating apps and online dating sites as a way to signify the type of relationship that people desire. ENM means that someone is ok with pursuing, or wants to pursue, other romantic relationships in addition to the one they have with you. The key word in this case is “ethically,” which tells you that the person wants to get the consent of all involved.


Good, Giving, and Game

Typically seen on dating apps, GGG refers to someone’s status as a sex partner. We don’t really need to go into specifics here, but basically, if you’re looking to have a little fun in your sex life, look for profiles that have GGG (or add it to your own).


No Strings Attached

Related to dating, NSA means that romantic partners can be together and enjoy physical intimacy without putting restrictions on the relationship. This could mean that they pursue sexual connections with other people or that they don’t fill the “committed partner” roles. 


Very Bad Date

When you’re dating, texting your friends or family after (or during!) the date is common to let them know how it went or how it’s going. If you text VBD to your roommate, they know to a) either make the “emergency” call so you can skedaddle or b) be prepared with a listening ear and a bucket of popcorn when you get home. 

HAK (or H&K)

Hugs and Kisses

Remember when you used to write “HAGS” in your friends’ middle school yearbooks? Well, this is a cuter way to sign off on messages to someone you’re seeing. If you’re not quite to the point of saying “I love you,” throw in a HAK at the end of your message to let your significant other know that you care (and that you love dating acronyms).


In Search Of

If you see ISO used on someone’s dating app or online dating site profile, it’s usually followed by specific traits or qualities that they’re looking for in a potential partner. While ISO originally started its acronym journey with online ads (like on Craigslist), it’s now a commonly used dating slang.


Long-Distance Relationship

This dating abbreviation is pretty self-explanatory, but it means that romantic partners are dating while living in two separate places, usually quite far apart. 


Public Display of Affection

PDA in a relationship involves any type of physical touch or intimacy, like kissing, handholding, hugging, and more. Some people are okay with a lot of PDA, while others might only feel comfortable with holding hands in public. Talk with your partner about what level of PDA is good for your relationship.


Never Married, No Kids

NMNK is a dating acronym that quickly communicates your current situation over text, in an app, or online. There are lots of acronyms like this out there, including those for pronouns and dating


Significant Other

This handy piece of dating slang is a great way to shorten a long-ish phrase for referring to your partner. Plus, it’s a great acronym to use when you’re not quite sure where you stand with the person; instead of using “boyfriend, girlfriend, or person I’m seeing romantically,” just say “SO.” Easy peasy.


All My Love

Similar to HAK, AML is a nice way to communicate your like or love for the person you’re talking to. But this isn’t only a dating abbreviation—you can even sign off on texts to your grandma with AML (though, she might not understand what you mean).

Navigating the dating world can be challenging, but we help make it a little easier with general tips on life and love and, of course, this handy guide to dating acronyms. Get more insights into what is dating now in 2023 and beyond.

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