A lolcat using the grammatically incorrect "I are ..." format, and employing misspellings for humorous effect

A lolcat (pronounced /ˈlɒlkæt/ LOL-kat), or LOLcat, is an image macro of one or more cats. Lolcat images' idiosyncratic and intentionally grammatically incorrect text is known as lolspeak.[1]

Lolcat is a compound word of the acronymic abbreviation LOL (laugh out loud) and the word "cat".[2][3] A synonym for lolcat is cat macro or cat meme, since the images are a type of image macro and also a well-known genre of meme.[4] Lolcats are commonly designed for photo sharing imageboards and other Internet forums.


A Brighton Cats carte de visite by Harry Pointer

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.[5] These souvenir cards were known as Brighton Cats. Other early figures include Harry Whittier Frees and (using taxidermied animals) Walter Potter.[6]

The first recorded use of the term "lolcat" was used on 4chan, an anonymous imageboard.[7][8][9] The word "Lolcat" was in use as early as June 2006; the domain name lolcats.com was registered on June 14, 2006.[10] Their popularity was spread through usage on forums such as Something Awful.[11] 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?"[12] The first image on "I CAN HAS CHEEZBURGER?" was posted on January 11, 2007, and was allegedly from the Something Awful website."[13][14] Lev Grossman of Time wrote that the oldest known example "probably dates to 2006",[15] but later corrected himself in a blog post[16] where he recanted his statement based on 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 "caturday.com" was registered on April 30, 2005.[17]

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]".[18] 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."[19] "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".[20]


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

Lolcat is a compound word made from the acronym "LOL" and "cat". Lolcat images comprise a photo of a cat with a large caption characteristically superimposed onto the image in a heavy, sans-serif font such as Impact or Arial Black.[21] Such images and memes following the format are often digitally edited for comedic effect.

Captions act 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,[21] featuring "strangely-conjugated verbs, but a tendency to converge to a new set of rules in spelling and grammar".[21][22][23][failed verification]

The text parodies the grammar-poor patois stereotypically attributed to Internet slang. Frequently, lolcat captions take the form of phrasal templates.[23] 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,[24] while others don't. The language of lolcats has also been likened to baby talk,[25] however it draws on a variety of linguistic resources, not just the imitation of baby talk.[26]

Common themes include jokes of the form "Im in ur [noun], [verb]-ing ur [related noun]."[27] Many lolcat images capture cats performing characteristically human actions or appearing to use modern technology, such as computers.[citation needed]

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)[28] and "I Can Has Cheezburger" (a portrait of a blue British Shorthair).[29] 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."[30] There followed numerous examples 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 one, almost in a form of judgment.

"Ceiling Cat" and the corresponding "Basement Cat" (a black cat who lives in the basement) are said to represent good and evil in the lolcat universe, and in some cases God and Satan, as in the LOLCat Bible Translation Project.[1][31][32]

The sculptural recreation of the "Ceiling Cat" meme by artists Eva & Franco Mattes

Ceiling Cat by Eva & Franco Mattes, a 2016 taxidermy cat installation mimicking the meme, is in the collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.[33]

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.[2]

In the Java edition of the video game Minecraft, there is an option to change language settings to LOLCAT.

Another example is Polandball, which uses broken English, reminiscent of the lolcat meme.

lolcat, a variant of the Unix utility cat, outputs text in rainbow colours.[34]

See also


  1. ^ a b Amter, Charlie (December 16, 2007). "Lolcat Bible Translation Project presents the Gospel according to Fluffy". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on December 24, 2007. Retrieved December 23, 2007.
  2. ^ a b Silverman, Dwight (June 6, 2007). "Web photo phenomenon centers on felines, poor spelling". Houston Chronicle. Archived from the original on June 18, 2013. Retrieved April 1, 2012.
  3. ^ Rutkoff, Aaron (August 25, 2007). "With 'LOLcats' Internet Fad, Anyone Can Get In on the Joke". The Wall Street Journal. New York. Archived from the original on July 15, 2018. Retrieved February 13, 2008.
  4. ^ Salas, Randy A. (June 9, 2007). "Laugh at cat humor". Akron Beacon Journal, Star Tribune. Retrieved June 17, 2007. At first, they were called cat macros, but now go mostly by the name lolcats.
  5. ^ "Harry Pointer's Brighton Cats". Photohistory-sussex.co.uk. Archived from the original on July 16, 2011. Retrieved March 22, 2012.
  6. ^ Cyriaque Lamar (April 9, 2012). "Even in the 1870s, humans were obsessed with ridiculous photos of cats". Archived from the original on July 10, 2012. Retrieved July 7, 2012.
  7. ^ Langton, Jerry (September 22, 2007). "Funny how 'stupid' site is addictive". The Star. Archived from the original on June 22, 2008. Retrieved October 4, 2008.
  8. ^ "Iz not cats everywhere? Online trend spreads across campus". Archived from the original on November 17, 2007.
  9. ^ smith, david. "the unseen face behind today's counterculture". Archived from the original on August 19, 2008. Retrieved August 25, 2008.
  10. ^ "WHOIS domain registration information results for lolcats.com from". Network Solutions. Archived from the original on March 13, 2012. Retrieved March 22, 2012.
  11. ^ Tom Whitwell (May 12, 2007). "Microtrends: LOLcats". The Times. Archived from the original on August 30, 2008. Retrieved October 21, 2008.
  12. ^ "Lolcats' demented captions create a new Web language," Tamara Ikenberg, The News Journal, July 9, 2007
  13. ^ "About « Lolcats 'n' Funny Pictures – I Can Has Cheezburger?". Icanhascheezburger.com. December 13, 2007. Archived from the original on November 27, 2010. Retrieved March 22, 2012.
  14. ^ "Original Picture, cheezburger, ICANHASCHEEZBURGER, September 26, 2007 icanhascheezburger.com Archived August 10, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ Lev Grossman (July 12, 2007). "Creating a Cute Cat Frenzy". Time. Archived from the original on July 16, 2007. Retrieved July 16, 2007. this has also spawned the digg dog which is part of the popular site titled digg.com
  16. ^ Lev Grossman (July 16, 2007). "Lolcats Addendum: Where I Got the Story Wrong". TIME. Retrieved February 15, 2010.
  17. ^ "Whois Domain Information For Caturday.com". Archived from the original on January 19, 2016. Retrieved June 18, 2015.
  18. ^ Grossman, Lev (July 12, 2007). "Cashing in on Cute Cats". Time. Archived from the original on July 14, 2007. Retrieved July 12, 2007. Partial scan of the print edition: fcrunk.wellimean.com Archived August 9, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ 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 Archived August 5, 2010, at the Wayback Machine". Entertainment Weekly. (1079/1080):74-84
  20. ^ "Americandialect.org" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on January 26, 2021. Retrieved March 22, 2012.
  21. ^ a b c Anil Dash (April 23, 2007). "Anil Dash: Cats Can Has Grammar". Archived from the original on August 26, 2013. Retrieved May 3, 2007.
  22. ^ Annalee Newitz (April 27, 2007). "I'M IN YR X Y-ING YOUR Z – A Grammar of Lolcats". Table of Malcontents, a Wired blog. Archived from the original on April 30, 2007. Retrieved April 29, 2007. These images ... usually include a cute cat saying something related to buckets, cheeseburgers, or whatever else with strangely-conjugated verbs.
  23. ^ a b Mark Liberman (April 25, 2007). "Language Log: Kitty Pidgin and asymmetrical tail-wags". Archived from the original on April 28, 2007. Retrieved April 28, 2007.
  24. ^ "Top ten Star Wars myths and legends: Do not want". VirginMedia.com. Archived from the original on December 16, 2008. Retrieved December 30, 2008.
  25. ^ Svensson, Peter (April 24, 2008). "Lolcat site needz ur skillz". Associated Press. Archived from the original on December 12, 2008. Retrieved October 15, 2008.
  26. ^ Gawne, Lauren; Vaughan, Jill M. (January 2012). "I can haz language play: The construction of language and identity in LOLspeak". Retrieved June 30, 2016.
  27. ^ Jay Cridlin (June 1, 2007). "This be funny storyz". Tampa Bay Times. Archived from the original on November 4, 2010. Retrieved April 7, 2008.
  28. ^ Charles Bremner Toulouse. "Microtrends: Failure – Times Online". Technology.timesonline.co.uk. Archived from the original on May 15, 2008. Retrieved March 22, 2012.
  29. ^ Tozzi, John (July 13, 2007). "Bloggers Bring in the Big Bucks". Business Week. Archived from the original on February 15, 2008. Retrieved January 10, 2008.
  30. ^ "I CAN HAS CHEEZBURGER? » Blog Archive » ceiling cat is watching you masturbate". icanhascheezburger.com. January 24, 2007. Archived from the original on February 4, 2007. Retrieved September 13, 2017.
  31. ^ Horan, Brianna. "How one hungry 'kitteh' can has the Internet lol". Archived from the original on February 15, 2009. Retrieved June 18, 2008.
  32. ^ Guzman, Monica (October 19, 2007). "Time killer: The "lolcat" Bible". Archived from the original on April 15, 2008. Retrieved June 18, 2008.
  33. ^ Kennicott, Philip (April 8, 2019). "Museums wants 2 show u memez now. They shud be careful". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on September 6, 2020. Retrieved January 17, 2020.
  34. ^ "Lolcat – A Command Line Tool to Output Rainbow Of Colors in Linux Terminal". Tecmint. June 13, 2015. Archived from the original on March 6, 2019. Retrieved March 6, 2019.