What does IRL mean?

In real life

IRL is a handy term used to describe things that happen in the real world, rather than on the internet or in games. It’s particularly useful for those who often find themselves immersed in alternate realities, such as fans of Star Trek, people who dress up as fictional characters, or those who participate in live-action role-playing games.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when or where the acronym IRL came into use, but it’s thought to have gained traction in the early 2000s. This was a time when more and more people were spending hours on end in chat rooms, browsing websites, and exploring virtual gaming universes. Online communities found it to be a concise way to differentiate between what was happening online and what was happening in the physical world.

If you need to distinguish between the online world and the physical one, IRL is a universally understood term among internet users. It comes in handy when you’re chatting on social media, gaming online, or in any other digital space.

Example for using ‘IRL’ in a conversation

Hey, are you free this weekend?

Sorry, I can’t. I have a cosplay event to attend.

Oh, cool! Have fun dressing up as your favorite character!

Thanks! It’s always fun to be someone else IRL.