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Leet (often l33t, 31337 or 1337) is a deformation of English spelling. It is characterized by the use of non-alphabet characters to stand for letters bearing superficial resemblance, and a number of quasi-standard spelling changes such as substitution of "z" for a final "s" and "x" for "ck". It is often used on the Internet by skript kiddies, hacker wanna-bes, and gamers. Even hackers are beginning to pick up parts of it.

The name "leet" is a shortened form of "elite", made by fully pronouncing the "l" and then the "eet." The most probable explanation of its origin is from bulletin board systems in the 1980s and early 1990s where having "elite" status on a BBS allowed a user access to file areas, games, and special chat rooms, often including archives of pirated software, pornography, and text files of dubious quality documenting topics such as how to construct explosives and manufacture illegal drugs. It may have also developed to defeat text filters created by BBS sysops for message boards to discourage the discussion of forbidden topics (such as hacking).

The origin of "leet" as a word might predate its usage on bulletin board systems and the Internet. The phrase may have been purloined from the US Army Rangers vernacular, who use the word "leet" to describe their status within the military community. The Rangers' catchcry of "hoot" (itself possibly a derivitive of "heard, understood, acting" or "hua" may be a possible antecedent of "woot" (the leetspeak exclamation of victory, success or reward).

Leet is also known as hakspek or leetspeak, especially when used to shorten messages. This type of Leet may have been developed to decrease bandwidth usage before the bandwidth explosion of the 1990s. It is also regaining popularity in SMS (Short Message Service) mediums, especially among users of Trillian.

Leet is a form of written slang. It is used to create group identity, and to obscure meaning from outsiders, especially "newbies" (which may be written "n00bs"). It also establishes a hierarchy, as more complex forms of leet are increasingly unreadable to the untrained eye (consider the phrase "PHr3Ku3N7ly H4s|{3d K0oSt330nZ!": it translates to "frequently asked questions". Note the extraneous h in front of asked and the construction "teeonz" as meaning "tions"). Simple forms of leet are making their way into the mainstream, as employees whose companies use email filters resort to creative spellings to prevent swearwords from being censored.

Websites exist that are written entirely in leet. There are also converter programs which amusingly render ordinary English text into leet, at varying levels of complexity.


  • "box" for computer (especially a computer that is being hacked or "h4x0r3d")
  • "warez" for software (typically bootlegged software)
  • "pr0n" for pornography (intentional misspelling of "porn", perhaps to defeat software crawlers from picking up the word)
  • "sploitz" (short for exploits) known vulnerabilities in computer software
  • "skript kiddie" - a derogatory term used by computer professionals to denote young teenagers who download pre-made automated exploit scripts and who possess little actual understanding of how computer software works internally.
  • "0wned" - completely dominated (in a game); hacked into (of a computer), in the past tense, this is "0wnz0r3d". This word may also be used as a non-leet, conversational slang term.
  • "CC" or "carding" for credit card fraud of one form or another
  • "eggable" for Unix shell accounts (where one can install and run Eggdrop, an IRC bot)
  • "r00t" for adminstrator privileges (from the Unix administrator account root)
  • "m4d sk1llz" for hacking talent of one sort or another and also being possessed of great ability in terms of computer games, Webmastering[?], or flaming.
  • "phreaking" for hacking telephone systems and other non-internet equipment
  • "w1k1", "w1|<1" or "^/!|{!" for "wiki"
  • "n00b" for newbies, or people who are unexperienced in a certain area, also occasionally "pr013", short for "proletariat". (Various other adjectives abound, these being the most civil of them.)
  • "w00t", "w007", or "\^/007" is a common interjection, analogous to "Yeah!" or "Yippee!" It originated as a stylisation of "root!" as in "I just got root on your box!"
  • "haxor", "#4><0|2" for "hacker" -- where the symbols are used to draw rough approximations to letters: >< is an "x", |2 is an "r"
    • Note that the construction "-xor" or any variation thereof can mean not only "-ker" but also "zor" (which is how a majority of english speakers would say it). In the phrase "r0x0rz my b0x0rz", which means the object of the phrase (usually a game, program, exploit, etc.) is of high quality, "x0r" in the word "r0x0rz" is almost ignored (the word is pronounced "rocks") while the "x0r" on "b0x0rz" is pronounced "zor", as the word is a variation on "boxers". Of course, some pronounce "r0x0rz" as "roks-ors", which is how it is spelt. A very small minority pronounce it "rockers", following the usage in "hax0rz". It should be noted that although the spelling of leet is fairly standarized, pronounciation differs widely, as does the actual alphabet used. Much depends on which forum, newsgroup, or chat room the leet is being spoken in.

Phonetic spellings:

  • "joo" for "you", also written as "j00"
  • "kewl" or "ku" or "ql" for "cool"
  • "r" for "are", "u" for "you", "c" for "see" (giving the common "see you")
  • "2" for "to" or "too", "4" for "for" (but note "4" can also represent an "A")
  • "8" for "-ate", as "l8r" for "later"
  • "ne" for "any"
  • "ph" for "f", as in "phear" for "fear"
  • b4k4^2 or |34|<4^2 for "baka squared." In other words...really stupid.

Frequent typos are also absorbed into leet, such as:

  • "yuo" for "you"
  • "teh" for "the" (also sometimes used as an intensifier: "He is teh lame")
  • "pwn" for "own" (to defeat badly, as in a game: "You got pwned") For instance: _|00 607 |*\^/|\|3|) ---in other words you got owned.
  • "smrt" for "smart"

Some other examples:
"WHeRE @Re J00 " for "where are you"
"wH4+'S uR nAME " for "what is your name"

Leet also draws elements from Engrish, such as "b4k4" (baka), a Japanese term for "fool". Lately, leet draws more and more from Japanese slang, due to the increasing fascination of hacker-type denizens of the internet with Japanese phenomena like hentai and anime.

Common letter-to-number or letter-to-symbol translations (subject to a great deal of individual variation):

A 4 or @ G 6 M //. or ^^ or |v| or |\/| or /\/\ S 5 or $ Y '/
B |3 or 8 H # or |-| N ^/ or |\| T 7 or + or "|" Z 2 or /_
C [ or ¢ or ( I ! O 0 or () U (_) or |_|
D |) J ,|or _| or -_7 P |* or |> V \/ or <
E 3 or & K |< or |{ or |( Q 9 or (,) W \/\/ or '// or \^/
F |= L 1 or |_ R |2 X >< or }{ or )( or '/,
See also: script kiddie, all your base are belong to us, ASCII art, JeffK, B1FF, smiley, txt msg, Back Orifice

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