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See also: yolo, Yolo, and Y.O.L.O.


Alternative forms[edit]


The phrase (not the acronym) "you only live once" dates to the 19th century according to research by Katherine Martin, head of U.S. Dictionaries at Oxford University Press.[1] It saw a steady increase of usage from 1940 to 2000.[1] Ben Zimmer, lexicographer, found the earliest usage of the acronym from 1993, in a trademark filed for YOLO gear with "you only live once" in small lettering.[1] The acronym was popularized around 2011 by Canadian rapper Drake.[1][2]

YOLO was entered into the Oxford English Dictionary as a word in 2016.[3]


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈjəʊ.ləʊ/
  • (US) IPA(key): /ˈjoʊ.loʊ/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -əʊləʊ



  1. (slang) Initialism of you only live once, i.e. expressing the view that one should make the most of the present moment.
    Making this cake mix eleven years past the expiration date, because YOLO!
    • 2014, Sam Jones, yolo, Simon and Schuster, →ISBN, page 132:
      “Well, it's too late to turn back now, Brandon,” Ana said. “And anyway… YOLO, right?” Brandon looked like he was about to explode, but finally he rubbed his eyes and nodded. “Yeah. YOLO.”
    • 2021 March 24, Charlie Warzel, quoting James Young, “What Are You Paying for When You Buy a GIF for $25,000?”, in The New York Times[3], ISSN 0362-4331:
      “It made me come to this conclusion of, I don’t know, YOLO, let me just try this,” he said.
    • 2021 April 21, Kevin Roose, “Welcome to the YOLO Economy”, in The New York Times[4], ISSN 0362-4331:
      Individual YOLO decisions can be chalked up to many factors: cabin fever, low interest rates, the emergence of new get-rich-quick schemes like NFTs and meme stocks.



See also[edit]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Alyssa Bereznak (February 5, 2013), “An Oral History of YOLO, the Word That Lived Too Long”, in Vanity Fair[1]
  2. ^ “The Motto”, in Take Care, 2011, performed by Drake: “Now she want a photo, you already know, though / You only live once: that's the motto, nigga, YOLO”
  3. ^ “Moobs and YOLO among new words in Oxford English Dictionary”, in BBC News[2], September 12, 2016