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Leetspeak: How to Speak 133t (leet)

Updated on November 3, 2011

Leetspeak: The Language of Gamers and Hackers

L337 Ph0r 3\/3r'/0|\|3: Does this mean anything to you? If you speak Leet, then you know the first statement says, “Leet for everyone.”

What in the world is Leet? 133t was invented by online gamers and hackers: the language substitutes numbers and symbols for letters. The language is pronounced “leet,” a shortened version of the word “elite,” and was found on bulletin board systems (BBS systems) of the '80's. Wikipedia claims this was to keep certain conversations private: gamers would type in leet to prevent the outside world from understanding the content of the message. In actuality, there were no text filters at the time 133t originated. The largest electronic messaging network available in the early 1980s was FIDONet, which had no text scanning capabilities. FIDONet is still in existence - it exists to exchange mail and files by way of modem - you cannot Telnet or FTP to FIDONet.

Once 8-bit ASCII bulletin board systems became available, users started taking on handles with the 128 new characters. This actually created a divide in the BBS community: "established" 7-bit BBSes considered the flood of ASCII characters annoying. There is no stopping change, however, and K-rAd became the norm, and was used widely until the internet became global. The original K-rAd characters will not work in a modern browser (having originated from MS-DOS), so modern Haxor is used: modern Haxor (also known as leetspeak) is actually more difficult to read than the original DOS based ASCII based K-rAd.

K-rAd, a term meaning, "1,000 times rad" was a high compliment to a hacker who had accomplished some radical act. There is a lot of slang used in leet: the uninitiated should find a dictionary to understand the various words.

Today, gamers often use “133t” as a way of notifying other players of their skills. As 1337 becomes more common (and translators are scattered all over the web), some true computer hackers look down on the masses of gamers claiming they are "133t."

A campaign to free Kevin Mitnick, the infamous hacker. Check that - the infamous H4X0R.
A campaign to free Kevin Mitnick, the infamous hacker. Check that - the infamous H4X0R. | Source

How is 133t Spelled?

In general, vowels are substituted by numbers or ASCII symbols. There are no absolute rules, and various symbols may be used to represent each letter of the alphabet. In some cases (as in the spelling of leet as 1337), every letter is represented as a number or symbol. Leetspeak may be written as 13375|>34|<.

A table below shows various symbolic replacements for English letters.

133t Spells Words Incorrectly… On Purpose.

Many words are misspelled in leetspeak: words commonly mistyped include t3h for the, like for like, and ph34 for “fear.” Often, these words are intentionally misspelled.

Leetspeak Alphabet Examples

English Letter
English Letter
4, @, /\
|\|, [\], //
8, |3, 13
0, (), []
(, {, <
|*, 9, |>
|), [),
(,), 0, , <|
3, &
|2, /2, lz
|=, ph, (=
5, z, $
6, 9, &
7, +, 1
|-|, [-], (-)
(_), |_|, /_/
1, |, !
\/, \\//, |/
_|, _), ]
\/\/, vv, \x/
|<, X, |X
><, *, }{
1, |_, 7
'/, -/, j
/\/\, ^^, /)/)
2, 7_, ~/_

Pronouncing 133t Words

Some leet words have multiple pronunciations: the word “pwn,” for instance, can be pronounced “own,” “pawn,” or “pone.” This, for the uninitiated, is the same thing as when someone shouts, “He owned him!” R0fz is pronounced “rawfs,” and means “rolling on the floor screaming.”

Making leet Simple

Firefox has a 1337 add-on, which will convert standard text into Leet. It will also convert text into Morse code, for those hackers who want to go old school.

Anyone can type in l33t now, as there are many leet translator tools available. All of the leet translators will convert 1337 into English, and English into 1337.


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    • leahlefler profile image

      Leah Lefler 6 years ago from Western New York

      It is crazy, isn't it? I was a kid during the old BBS days - actually a co-Sysop (system operator) on one BBS when I was about 12 years old. It wasn't called leet (133t) back then, though - I had a cousin mention the leetspeak to me and I had to go look it up, haha!

    • ModdedLife profile image

      ModdedLife 6 years ago from Lexington Kentucky

      Hahaha very interesting..

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 6 years ago from Washington

      Holy toledo - that went right over my head~ It is a kind of code then - but nothing like speech recognition right? What kind of stuff will they think of next? Doing speech recognition files now myself and editing them, it is interesting what "machines" (computers) hear and what comes out on the printed report. You would not want to see your medical reports before one of us edit it! Interesting, Leah.