<3 – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Are you looking for a way to send a quick expression of affection, if so, chances are you typed in <3 at some point.

These two simple characters are an easy way to show someone that you care. Instead of looking high and low for the right emoji or meme, a heart is often all you need to get your point across.

Computers everywhere know how to translate <3 into a quick symbol of affection automatically. This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this expression.


<3 may seem like just some random characters on a keyboard, but they actually will trigger the creation of a heart when used.

<3 stands for heart or love. When you turn your head to the side, you can see the visual representation of a heart.

However, typing <3 into your chat, messenger, or even on an internet comment, it will transform into a visual heart automatically.

Most often <3 is used as a sign of affection, or to signify that someone is lonely. It also serves as the symbol for emo hearts, and also as a mathematical way to signify a couple.

Think back to when you were taught about more than, less than, and equal too in grade school. <3 is less than three, which signifies two people, a couple.

In text conversation, it is a less formal way of saying that you care about someone, or love them.

A lesser-used, and more crass meaning of <3 refers to a butt, or a ballsack. However, there is often only used between friends, typically male friends.

The use of the emoticon as a butt or ball sack requires a lot of context, or at least a longer term relationship with the person sending it.

This will prevent miscommunication or misunderstanding surrounding the meaning when used.

Example Usage

“You are my <3 Maddy”

“I <3 u”

“It’s time for bed, <3 you”

“I miss you so much, <3”

“My <3 is completely yours”

“Hey, babe <3”

“I totally <3 the Ravens”

“It’s all <3 dude”


Before emojis and memes became commonplace, keyboard shortcuts were used. <3 quite literally looks like a heart when you turn it sideways and was used to mean love before the creation of emojis and chat images.

Keyboard shortcuts such as <3 have been around as long as computers, some even longer.

Many of these symbols, including <3, were even used during the golden age of typewriters.

Phrases Similar to <3

  • <333 - I really love you.
  • K3U - I love you
  • <4 - I really love you
  • I<3U - I love you

Phrases opposite to <3

  • I <2 - It's not love yet
  • Ih8u -I hate you.

What is The Correct Saying?

  • I really <3 you.

Ways People May Incorrectly Say <3

  • Kiss my <3.
  • Your <3 is showing.
  • Wearing saggy pants shows your <3.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase <3

<3 is most often used on social media and in short-hand phone communications. There are many ways to use it, mainly, it replaces love in any sentence.

It is very casual and should never be used in formal communication.

In most cases, it should be confined to text messages or internet messages between well-known friends.

Some acceptable uses are:

  • Hey baby, you are my <3.
  • Let everyone share the <3.
  • <3 is in the air.
  • The spice of life lives in the <3.
  • See you soon, <3 u.
  • Missing you, <3.
  • I can’t wait to have you home, <3.
  • Kiss my <3 dude, you know you want to.

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