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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.


Phonetic spellings:

Frequent typos are also absorbed into leet, such as:

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, base are belong to us">all your base are belong to us, ASCII art, JeffK, B1FF, smiley, txt msg, Back Orifice

External links