l337 5p34k <– – Leet speak

What on earth is leet? When did it started? Where did it originate? Why was it used and sometimes still does?

r u leet?

Browsing through the world’s websites it is certain that you ‘ll encounter, especially in chat rooms, forums and on-line games, some words that would make any graduate of English Literature to rip apart his certificates! What the hell do words like “pr0n”, “n00b”, h4x or “m4d sk1llz” mean and in what language exactly? All these years of studying are gone, wasted!

No, no, no, don’t worry. I am just talking about a new online format of the English language (?) called leet and it can be found in many websites.

When and most importantly… why?

Some long, long time ago (not when man lived in caves, just recently) in the late ’70s and mid-early 90s, there was the BBS (Bulletin Board System, also know as Usenet). BBS was computer networks that allowed users to connect via landline and  download-upload files, news, programs, etc., one of the first forms of the Web as we know it. The more someone used the system, the more his status quo increased and with more access to all available records, obtaining the so-called Elite Status. You can imagine at that time, files exceeding certain “limits” of legality were not accessible to everyone: porn, cr@ck3|) software, instructions for making viruses, drugs, explosives, and… my goodness… noone knows what else beyond this. These things were not always tolerated by sysops (short for System Operators, owners of BBS), who scans with special software all the files and conversations searching for keywords of illegal activities. In addition, users of the primitive internet feared that they were being watched by government authorities, ready to put the behind vertical iron bars on their every false step. Solution was found by those who belonged to the elite and it was the encoding of words in a way that could not be understood the program stalker. Symbols replacing letters and letter reordering came into place: scanners do not understand that “pr0n” means “porn”, but the elite user has already got the point. The logic of the elite, leet or 1337 is to replace letters with similar symbols, naturally found on the keyboard. Number “1” is very similar to the “L”, the “@” involves “a”, Number “5” is a bit similar to “S”. Which letters will be changed and how much is not always made in the same manner (“a” can be “@”, “4”, “^” or whateverwhat else one can think of). We could say, somewhat arbitrarily, that there is “hardcore” and “light” 1337: In the first form all letters are replaced by symbols, while in the second just a few.

Changes were in accordance with the phonetic pronunciation of the words: “You” becomes “j00” or “u”, “later” becomes “18r” (L + eight + r), the “fear” to “ph3 @ r”. In 1337, all sorts of expressions and words of on-line and colloquial slang were added, eg “Warez” (pirated software), “w00t” (like yeah), “sploitz” (as exploit, security holes that the hackers exploit – or “h4ck3rz” to be precise), “N00b” (from “newbie”, a novice with the militaristic term, especially in games), the suffix “z” instead of “s” (rulez!).


Lol… be careful this guy ^^ knows everything!


Nowadays the buzz in the millions (if not billions) of IRC channels, forums, blogs, facebook, twitter (the list goes on forever) “whispers” of illegal discussions litterally disappear. Today,  1337 is primarily used as a demonstration of a “deep knowledge” of the subculture in a user’s perspective. Its a different thing to play an online game as “mad killer” and another as “[V]@[) k!113r”! – “Wow, I think this guy has been playing the game for ten years, not less!” Some people off course may over do it, as it could lead to the opposite, in a such unreadable text, so hard to read even from the experienced, while in the same time, on the other side of the network, a 15 year old boy is trying to do the show.

leet vs noob

Therefore, be aware and remember: 1337 r0x0rz j00r b0x0rz!



A: /\
B: |3 , 8
C: (
D: |) , [)
E: 3 , <-
F: |[ , |=
G: 6
H: |{ , [-] , {-}
I: | , !
J: _|
K: |<
L: |_
M: |V| , ^^ , [V]
N: |\|
O: 0 , ()
P: |0 , |*
Q: 0,
R: |) , |2
S: 5 , $
T: 7 , +
U: |_| , (_)
V: \/
W: \|/ ,  \/\/
X: ><
Y: `/ , \-/
Z: “/_

1337 LIGHT

A: 4, @
B: 8
C: (
D: D
E: 3
F: F
G: 6
H: H
I: 1 , !
J: J
K: K
M: M
N: N
O: 0
P: P
Q: Q
R: R
S: 5
T: 7
U: U
V: V
W: W
X: X
Y: Y
Z: 2

For those looking for an on-line converter I have found this excellent web page, which supports english and german, with both advanced and light layouts, customizations and many available charsets, including braille!

Follow the link here. Robert Ecker’s homepage also has some other interesting tools!

3 thoughts on “l337 5p34k <– – Leet speak

  1. Hi Robert!

    I would also have to thank you for providing us those great tools of yours, they are quite useful and highly interesting! I can’t wait for the next version.

    BTW, is there a way we can work out in a greek version? I can e-mail you all the necessary information?

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