What Does “IDK” Mean, and How Do You Use It?

Internet-based slang can often be incomprehensible to outsiders, with random letters seemingly thrown together in a way that makes no sense. Thankfully, sometimes, these slang words are easy and relatively self-explanatory. Such is the case with “IDK,” which is one of the oldest and most commonly used internet pieces of slang.

What does “IDK” mean?

“IDK” is easy: It simply means, “I don’t know.” There is no other magic or explanation for its use. It is simply an internet-based initialism meant to express ignorance, confusion, or a lack of knowledge about a certain subject.

The use of the term as a stand-alone initialism has long since been accepted, but there are other variations on the term that have become very wildly used, like “idc” (I don’t care) or “idts” (I don’t think so).

How long has “IDK” been used?

IDK is one of the older internet-based pieces of slang, having first appeared in 2002 or 2003. However, Google Trends apparently first recorded a significant uptick in the term’s usage around 2007.

A longer examination of the Google Trends document indicates that searches for the term reached an all-time high around March and April 2020. Some have speculated that this was a direct result of a spike in the term’s use that came from the COVID-19 pandemic.

How do you use “IDK”?

Generally speaking, IDK is kept in a lowercase form, particularly when used in a more casual context. It is often used in answer to a question and as a stand-alone response, or as part of a sentence, like, “idk what time we are supposed to go out.”

When it comes to this initialism, there’s more good news: There really isn’t a wrong way to use it. It can be used as a stand-alone text or in conjunction with a larger statement. Indeed, of all the internet-based slang, this is truly one of the easiest to use. Furthermore, like most other internet-based slang, it is not something that has any place in a more formal document.

IDK can be used in reference to a lack of knowledge about anything, be it a fact, current event, or personal plans. There is no real limit to the term’s use when it comes to using it online.

IDK can often be used in conjunction with emojis. One common example is the “shrug” emoji that features a person shrugging, with their arms extended. Of course, this isn’t required, but it can add extra emphasis to a statement about a lack of knowledge.