A lolcat

A lolcat (pronounced /ˈlɒlkæt/ LOL-kat) is an image macro of one or more cats. The image's text is often idiosyncratic and grammatically incorrect, and is known as lolspeak or kitty pidgin.

Lolcat is a compound word of the acronymic abbreviation for LOL (laugh out loud) and the word cat.[1][2] A synonym for lolcat is cat macro, since the images are a type of image macro.[3] Lolcats are commonly designed for photo sharing imageboards and other Internet forums.


1905 cat postcard by Harry Whittier Frees

British portrait photographer Harry Pointer created a carte de visite series featuring cats posed in various situations in the early 1870s. To these he usually added amusing text intended to further enhance their appeal.[4] Other notable early figures include Harry Whittier Frees and (using mounted animals) Walter Potter.[5]

The first recorded use of the term "lolcat" is from the anonymous imageboard 4chan.[6][7][8] The word "Lolcat" was in use as early as June 2006, and the domain name "" was registered on June 14, 2006.[9] Their popularity was spread through usage on forums such as Something Awful.[10] The News Journal states that "some trace the lolcats back to the site 4chan, which features bizarre cat pictures on Saturdays, or 'Caturdays'." Ikenburg adds that the images have been "slinking around the Internet for years under various labels, but they did not become a sensation until early 2007 with the advent of I Can Has Cheezburger?"[11] The first image on "I CAN HAZ CHEEZBURGER?" was posted on January 11, 2007, and was allegedly from the Something Awful website."[12][13] Lev Grossman of Time wrote that the oldest known example "probably dates to 2006,"[14] but later corrected himself in a blog post[15] where he recapitulated the anecdotal evidence readers had sent him, placing the origin of "Caturday" and many of the images now known by a few as "lolcats" in early 2005. The domain name "" was registered on April 30, 2005.[16]

The term lolcat gained national media attention in the United States when it was covered by Time, which wrote that non-commercialized phenomena of the sort are increasingly rare, stating that lolcats have "a distinctly old-school, early 1990s, Usenet feel to [them]".[17] Entertainment Weekly put them on its end-of-the-decade, "best-of" list, saying, "Da cutest distractshun of da decaid? Y, lolcats of corse! We can neber haz enuf of deez capshioned pics of cuddlie kittehs."[18] "Lolcat" was also a runner-up under the "Most Creative" category under the American Dialect Society Word of the Year Awards, losing out to "Googlegänger".[19]

In December 2014, the word lolcat entered the Oxford English Dictionary, appearing in its online version.[20]


A lolcat image using the "I'm in ur..." format

Lolcat is a composite of two words, "lol" and "cat". "Lol" stands for "Laugh out Loud" or "Laughing out Loud"; hence, lolcats are intended to be funny and to include jokes.[21] Lolcats images comprise a photo of a cat with a large caption characteristically set in a heavy sans serif font such as Impact or Arial Black.[22] The image is, on occasion, digitally edited for effect.

The caption generally acts as a speech balloon encompassing a comment from the cat, or as a description of the depicted scene. The caption is intentionally written with deviations from standard English spelling and grammar,[22] featuring "strangely-conjugated verbs, but a tendency to converge to a new set of rules in spelling and grammar".[22][23][24] The text parodies the grammar-poor patois stereotypically attributed to Internet slang. Frequently, lolcat captions take the form of phrasal templates.[24] Some phrases have a known source, usually a well-known Internet meme, such as All your base are belong to us or Do not want,[25] while others don't. The language of lolcats has also been likened to baby talk,[26] however it draws on a variety of linguistic resources, not just the imitation of baby talk.[27]

Common themes include jokes of the form "Im in ur [noun], [verb]-ing ur [related noun]."[28] Many lolcat images capture cats performing characteristically human actions or appearing to use modern technology, such as computers.

There are several well-known lolcat images and single-word captions that have spawned many variations and imitations, including "Ceiling Cat" (see below). Others include Fail (a cat with a slice of processed cheese on its face)[29] and "I Can Has Cheezburger" (a portrait of a blue British Shorthair).[30] Another popular format is "[Adjective] cat is [adjective/noun]."

Recurring characters

"Ceiling Cat" is a character spawned by the meme. The original image was an image macro with a picture of a cat looking out of a hole in a ceiling, captioned "Ceiling Cat is watching you masturbate."[31] There followed numerous image macros with the format "Ceiling Cat is watching you [verb ending in/rhyming with -ate]" with Ceiling Cat superimposed in the upper left hand corner of an image macro depicting the appropriate action. The underlying theme is that the cat is looking down on you, almost in a form of judgement. The character is also featured in a project to translate the Bible to lolspeak. "Ceiling Cat" and the corresponding "Basement Cat" (a black cat who lives in the basement) represent good and evil (sometimes God and Satan) in the lolcat universe.[32][33][34]

Offshoots and parodies

Variations on the lolcat concept include captioning photos of other animals in a similar style (e.g. loldogs for dogs, etc.).

The syntax of lolcat captions was used as the basis for LOLCODE, an esoteric programming language with interpreters and compilers available in .NET Framework, Perl, etc.[1]

In the game Minecraft, there is an option to change language settings to LOLCAT.

See also

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  1. 1 2 Dwight Silverman (2007-06-06). "Web photo phenomenon centers on felines, poor spelling". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2012-04-01.
  2. Rutkoff, Aaron (2007-08-25). "With 'LOLcats' Internet Fad, Anyone Can Get In on the Joke". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2008-02-13.
  3. Randy A. Salas (2007-06-09). "Laugh at cat humor". Akron Beacon Journal, Star Tribune. Retrieved 2007-06-17. At first, they were called cat macros, but now go mostly by the name lolcats.
  4. "Harry Pointer's Brighton Cats". Retrieved 2012-03-22.
  5. Cyriaque Lamar (2012-04-09). "Even in the 1870s, humans were obsessed with ridiculous photos of cats". Retrieved 2012-07-07.
  6. Langton, Jerry (2007-09-22). "Funny how `stupid' site is addictive". The Star. Retrieved 2008-10-04. External link in |publisher= (help)
  7. "Iz not cats everywhere? Online trend spreads across campus". Archived from the original on November 17, 2007.
  8. smith, david. "the unseen face behind today's counterculture". Retrieved 2008-08-25.
  9. Contact Us. "WHOIS domain registration information results for from". Network Solutions. Retrieved 2012-03-22.
  10. Tom Whitwell (May 12, 2007). "Microtrends: LOLcats". The Times. Retrieved 2008-10-21.
  11. "Lolcats' demented captions create a new Web language," Tamara Ikenberg, The News Journal, July 9, 2007
  12. "About « Lolcats 'n' Funny Pictures – I Can Has Cheezburger?". 2007-12-13. Retrieved 2012-03-22.
  13. "Original Picture, cheezburger, ICANHASCHEEZBURGER, September 26, 2007
  14. Lev Grossman (2007-07-12). "Creating a Cute Cat Frenzy". Time (magazine). Retrieved 2007-07-16. this has also spawned the digg dog which is part of the popular site titled
  15. Lev Grossman (July 16, 2007). "Lolcats Addendum: Where I Got the Story Wrong". TIME. Retrieved February 15, 2010.
  16. "Whois Domain Information For".
  17. Grossman, Lev (2007-07-12). "Cashing in on Cute Cats". Time Magazine. Retrieved 2007-07-12. Partial scan of the print edition:
  18. Geier, Thom, et al. (December 11, 2009). "The 100 Greatest Movies, TV shows, Albums, Books, Characters, Scenes, Episodes, Songs, Dresses, Music Videos, and Trends that entertained us over the past 10 Years". Entertainment Weekly. (1079/1080):74-84
  19. "" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-03-22.
  20. "Recent updates to Oxford Dictionaries". Retrieved 2015-10-28.
  21. "1950's Proto-LOLcats".
  22. 1 2 3 Anil Dash (2007-04-23). "Anil Dash: Cats Can Has Grammar". Retrieved 2007-05-03.
  23. Annalee Newitz (2007-04-27). "I'M IN YR X Y-ING YOUR Z – A Grammar of Lolcats". Table of Malcontents, a Wired blog. Retrieved 2007-04-29. These images ... usually include a cute cat saying something related to buckets, cheeseburgers, or whatever else with strangely-conjugated verbs.
  24. 1 2 Mark Liberman (2007-04-25). "Language Log: Kitty Pidgin and asymmetrical tail-wags". Retrieved 2007-04-28.
  25. "Top ten Star Wars myths and legends: Do not want". Retrieved 2008-12-30.
  26. Svensson, Peter (2008-04-24). "Lolcat site needz ur skillz". Associated Press. Retrieved 2008-10-15.
  27. Gawne, Lauren; Vaughan, Jill M. "I can haz language play: The construction of language and identity in LOLspeak". Retrieved 2016-06-30.
  28. Jay Cridlin (2007-06-01). "This be funny storyz". Tampa Bay Times.
  29. Charles Bremner Toulouse Updated 6 minutes ago. "Microtrends: Failure – Times Online". Retrieved 2012-03-22.
  30. Tozzi, John (July 13, 2007). "Bloggers Bring in the Big Bucks". Business Week. Retrieved 2008-01-10.
  31. "Ceiling cat is watching you...". 2007-01-24. Retrieved 2009-08-17.
  32. Amter, Charlie (2007-12-16). "Lolcat Bible Translation Project presents the Gospel according to Fluffy". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 2007-12-24. Retrieved 2007-12-23.
  33. Horan, Brianna. "How one hungry 'kitteh' can has the Internet lol". Archived from the original on 2009-02-15. Retrieved 2008-06-18.
  34. Guzman, Monica. "Time killer: The "lolcat" Bible". Retrieved 2008-06-18.


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