A glossary of basic Twitter terms

Twitter Fail Whale

If you haven’t heard this by now, you are going to worry me…. get on Twitter! We’ll talk more about this in class, but here are some Twitter terms you should know. Source: These are complied from Twitter’s own glossary, Wikipedia and my own definitions.



\ˈa-və-ˌtär\ The personal image uploaded to your Twitter profile in the Settings tab of your account. Article: http://support.twitter.com/articles/127871-how-to-change-your-profile-picture-or-information


\ˈbī-(ˌ)ō\ A short personal description used to define who you are on Twitter. Article: http://support.twitter.com/articles/127871-how-to-change-your-profile-picture-or-information

Direct Message

\də-ˈrekt\ \ˈme-sij\ Also called a DM, these messages are private between only the sender and recipient. Please note: you cannot send a direct message to a user who is not following you. Article: http://support.twitter.com/articles/14606-what-is-a-direct-message-dm

The command: d + username + message

Fail Whale

\ˈfāl\ \ˈwāl\ When Twitter experiences an outage, users see the “fail whale” error message image created by Yiying Lu, illustrating several red birds using a net to hoist a whale from the ocean captioned “Too many tweets! Please wait a moment and try again.” This term is not listed in Twitter’s glossary.


#FF stands for “Follow Friday.” Twitter users often suggest who others should follow on Fridays by tweeting with the hashtag #FF.


\ˈfä-(ˌ)lō\ To follow someone on Twitter means to subscribe to their Tweets or updates on the site. Article: http://support.twitter.com/articles/14019-what-is-following


\geō – lō-ˈkā-shən\ The use of location data in Tweets to tell us where you are in real time. The act of adding that meta information is known as Geotagging. Article: http://support.twitter.com/articles/78525-about-the-tweet-with-your-location-feature


\ˈhan-dəl\ A user’s “Twitter handle” is the username they have selected and the accompanying URL, like so: http://twitter.com/username. Article: http://support.twitter.com/articles/14609-how-to-change-your-username


\ˈhash-‘tag\ The # symbol is used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. Was created organically by Twitter users. Example: #ascj Article: http://support.twitter.com/articles/49309-what-are-hashtags-symbols


\ˈlist\ Curated groups of other Twitter users. Used to tie specific individuals into a group on your Twitter account. Article: http://support.twitter.com/articles/76460-how-to-use-twitter-lists

Replies & Mention

\ri-ˈplī\ & \ˈmen(t)-shən\ Created by the Twitter community, a Tweet posted in reply to another user’s message, typically begins with @username. Also used to mention a user. Article: http://support.twitter.com/articles/14023-what-are-replies-and-mentions

Please note:
* People will only see replies in their Home timeline if they are following both the sender and recipient of the update.

* People will see mentions in their timeline even if they don’t follow the person mentioned – as long as they follow the sender, they’ll see the mention in their timeline (It’s treated like a regular Tweet.)

* People with protected accounts cannot send replies to people who aren’t following them, and mentions won’t be seen by non-followers either.

* If someone sends you a reply and you are not following the user, the reply will not appear on your Home timeline. Instead, the reply will appear in your Mentions timeline.

The command: @ + username + message


\ri-ˈtwēt\ A Tweet by another user, forwarded to you by someone you follow. Often used to spread news or share valuable findings on Twitter. RT is the abbreviated version of “retweet.” Article: http://support.twitter.com/articles/77606-what-is-retweet-rt


\ˈsərch\ Created by an external developer later purchased by Twitter, it allows you to search Tweets. The advance search page, not linked from the homepage, is http://search.twitter.com/advanced. Why is search so powerful? Watch this video: Twitter Search in Plain English


Short Message Service (SMS) is most commonly known as text messaging. Most messages are a maximum of 140 characters.

Third Party Application

\ˈthərd\ \ˈpär-tē\ \ˌa-plə-ˈkā-shən\ A third-party application is a product created by a company other than Twitter and used to access Tweets and other Twitter data. Article: http://support.twitter.com/articles/77277-i-need-help-with-a-3rd-party-application


\ˈtīm-ˌlīn\ A real-time list of Tweets from those you follow. This is like you news feed made.

Trending Topic

\ˈtrend-ing\ \ˈtä-pik\ A subject algorithmically determined to be one of the most popular on Twitter at the moment. Example (a sad one): Justin Bieber


\ˈtwēt\ A message posted via Twitter containing 140 characters or fewer. As a verb, it’s called Tweet, Tweeting, Tweeted. But many stylebooks reject this.


\ˈtwēt-er\ An account holder on Twitter who posts and reads Tweets. Also known as Twitterer.


\’ən-fä-(ˌ)lō\ To cease following another Twitter user. Their Tweets no longer show up in your home timeline. Article: http://support.twitter.com/articles/15355-how-to-unfollow-users-on-twitter

URL Shortener

URL shorteners are used to turn long URLs into shorter URLs, creating a more efficient Tweet. Shortening services include Bit.Ly, Ow.ly, TinyURL.com, etc.

More resources

Twitter’s own glossary of terms: http://support.twitter.com/groups/31-twitter-basics/topics/104-welcome-to-twitter-support/articles/166337-the-twitter-glossary

Mashable’s Twitterspeak: 66 Twitter Terms: http://mashable.com/2008/11/15/twitterspeak/

The Social Media Guide’s Twitter Cheat Sheet: http://thesocialmediaguide.com.au/2009/11/03/twitter-cheat-sheet/

Wikipedia entry for Twitter: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twitter

Howcast: How To Use Twitter : http://www.howcast.com/videos/149055-How-To-Use-Twitter

The Public You’s Twitter Quick Reference Card [PDF]: http://www.thepublicyou.com/resources/Twitter+Quick+Reference+Card.pdf