What Does IOU Mean in a Text?

IOU is a common shorthand for "I owe you," which has been in existence since at least the early 1800s. The abbreviation IOU is usually followed by an amount of money, an item, or a service (i.e., the thing owed). For example:
  • IOU 10 dollars.
  • (IOU is most commonly followed by an amount of money.)
  • IOU a breakfast in bed.
  • (IOU can also be followed by an item or a service.)
An IOU (i.e., a physical slip of paper) is a written acknowledgement of a debt. A full IOU would be addressed to the creditor, signed and dated by the debtor.

To Jack,

IOU $5.50

Signed: Jill
Dated: 20 August 1825

Image for IOU

When I write IOU, I mean this:

meaning of IOU

An I.O.U. is a written acknowledgement of a debt.

Summary of Key Points

"I Owe You" is the most common definition for IOU on Snapchat, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok.
Definition:I Owe You
Guessability:guessability level 1
1: Easy to guess
Typical Users:typical user

Adults and Teenagers

Examples of IOU in Sentences

Here are examples of IOU being used in conversations:
  • Charlie: Don't forget IOU 150 Euros for the train ticket.
  • Jordan: I won't forget. I need the money to get home.
  • (Here, IOU is shorthand for "I owe you...".)
  • Charlie: Can I write you an IOU for the remainder?
  • Jordan: Sure.
  • (Here, IOU denotes a physical slip of paper.)

An Academic Look at IOU

When IOU is shorthand for "I owe you" and followed by a direct object (i.e., the thing owed), it is most often used as a standalone declarative sentence (i.e., a statement of fact). However, when IOU denotes a physical slip of paper, it is used as a noun.

The term IOU is commonly written with full stops / periods (I.O.U.). This practice peaked in the 1930s but is now waning. In other words, more people are writing it without full stops / periods. [click here for evidence]

What Did We Say before Texting and Social Media?

The term IOU was popular long before the digital era. It has been in use since at least the early 1800s.

Example of IOU Used in a Text

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