#Instaslang – All you need to know about hashtags


#Followme, OMG!, plz retweet!, Tnx, XO. Do you use these language terms chatting online as well? Social networking has become an essential part of our everyday communication. There are many different social media websites, such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and Snapchat. In our blog, we would like to focus on Instagram communication.

Instagram, created by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger and launched in October, 20icon-1562139_192010 as a free app, is a funny and fast way to communicate through pictures and videos. Hence, when you post pictures, you share the events of your life with your friends and other followers. When you follow somebody, you have a chance to track new events happening in his/her live. The word “Instagram” is a combination of parts of two or more words (called “blend” in linguistics, which means a process by which a new word is created, see below), that form the main idea of this social media creation: Instant camera + Telegram. Thus, pictures represent a modern version of telegram conveying the message of the user.

How many of you have an Instagram account? Statistics show that Instagram is one of the most popular social communication apps used by teenagers. Although we are no longer teenagers, we love to use Instagram as well 😊.

As Instagram users, have you noticed the differences between language used in face-to face communication and in the comment section on the app? This is called Instagram slang, a special language shared only by the community of its users. That’s why non-users of Instagram will probably feel confused and don’t catch the meaning of the terms, such as #InstaSize, #Regram, #NoFilter.



It is important to mention that slang language changes every day. Some terms become old-fashioned and are no longer used, whereas a lot of new words are being created. Consequently, even an experienced Instagram user sometimes feels a bit puzzled by some of the new hashtags he/she notices under the pictures of his/her friends or the celebrities he/she follows. So are we 😊. For this reason, we would like to give a short linguistic overview of the most popular hashtags and explain the ones which are not clearly understandable.

By the way, what exactly is a hashtag?

The history of the hashtag starts on August, 23 2007, when Twitter user Chris Messina offered the sign # in his tweet as a way to organize messages into meaningful groups in the online community2. Since then hashtags have been used on the social networking sites worldwide.



Simply said, hashtag means to add a hash mark (#) before a word or several words, written together without a space between them. Hashtagging links the word to dynamic feed within the social network to make the search process easy and fast. Moreover, hashtags help users to support the messages of their pictures and make them more comprehensive to the followers. Thus, talking about Instagram, we deal not only with communication through pictures but through hashtagging as well.

Hashtagging is a very important tool for searching the required information and for sharing your post with others, even completely unknown individuals, as well as for communication with your followers.  If you use your hashtags effectively, a wide range of users can notice your post. As a consequence, you can attract some like-minded new followers and your picture can get a lot of likes.

Sounds great, but please keep in mind that, just like any form of communication, interaction via hashtagging has etiquette of its usage. Make your content follower friendly by conforming to some key rules:4


By the way, there is a funny video concerning this point: American comedian and television host Jimmy Fallon and singer Justin Timberlake show what a Twitter conversation sounds like in real life. The skit was aired during one of the episodes of American late-night talk show “Late night with Jimmy Fallon”.

“#Hashtag”(Late Night with Jimmy Fallon). 

There is also “#Hashtag2” video with Jimmy Fallon & Jonah Hill in case you want to laugh a bit more.

Lesson learned: Do not add too many single word hashtags unless you want to get in the situation showed in the broadcast above 😊.

Now you know the key issues of hashtag etiquette. Let’s figure out which hashtags you can use to make your account more popular and find out how these tags are magnifying-glass-1294834_1280linguistically constructed.


We have analysed 300 of the most frequently used hashtags on Instagram (version published on the 27th of November 2016) and concluded the following:

  • With regard to transparency and comprehensibility, there are two groups of hashtags:


  • With regard to hashtag formation, we identified the following strategies:


The hashtag instances in categories blends and initialisms are difficult to understand without information-1294813_1280any additional background knowledge or explanation. Bellow, there are the definitions of these terms and a short glossarof the most frequently used and the most interesting slang instances of each group:


A blend word or a blend is a word formed from parts of two or more other words. These parts are sometimes, but not always, morphemes.5

Most blends in the list consist of parts of the word “Instagram” + a noun/ an adjective/ a verb.



An initialism is

  • a name or term formed from the initial letters or initial morphemes of a group of words, representing a name, organization, or the like, with each letter pronounced separately, as FBI for Federal Bureau of Investigation. 
  • name or term formed from the initial letters of a group of words and pronounced as a separate word, as NATO for North Atlantic Treaty Organization.6



Hopefully, you liked our short guide of Instagram hashtags. You can easily see that linguistics is not something theoretic and abstract without any connection to real life. Oursocial-media-432498_1280 point is that linguistics can be applied to every situation in your daily activities requiring the language usage. You are chatting on Facebook with your friends? You are reading tweets of your favourite singer? You are sending instant messages to your parents?  You are posting pictures on Instagram using hashtags? You are reading blogs or maybe even writing one by yourself? For all these actions, you use your knowledge of language. The more skills you have, the more successful your results will be. All in all, we hope that you have had a nice time while reading through our blog post, got some useful information and that we increased your interest in linguistics. 😊

Stella and Veronika

Picture credits

The following pictures: Social Networking picture in the beginning of the post (the same one as Featured image), Instagram, Hashtag, Search & Information Icons and Social Media picture in the end of the post, are taken from the image database Pixabay and released under Creative Commons CC0 allowing to adapt and use them without attributing the original author or source. 

All the Infobox pictures (including Infobox 1,2,3,4,5,6,7) are created by the author.

Works cited

The video “#Hashtag” with Jimmy Fallon & Justin Timberlake is a link to the official The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon YouTube Channel.






















Cite this article as: veronika&stella, "#Instaslang – All you need to know about hashtags" [blog post]. In: Language Matters!, December 12, 2016, https://lama.hypotheses.org/74.

(NOTE: If the authors have indicated their real names at the beginning or end of the post, please substitute the pseudonyms accordingly.)


  1. http://www.thefreedictionary.com/slang []
  2. https://www.hashtags.org/platforms/twitter/history-of-hashtags/ []
  3. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/hashtag []
  4. http://www.lifehack.org/articles/communication/guide-hashtag-etiquette.html []
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blend_word []
  6. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/initialism []


Hi, everyone! We are Stella and Veronika, 1st year students in the MA program of Applied Linguistics in the University of Bonn. We are language loving girls who are very active social media users. :) That's why we have chosen Language & the Media topic for our blog post. We have really enjoyed writing this post and we hope you will like reading it. :)

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  1. March 12, 2021

    […] Hypotheses […]

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