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What Does <3 Mean On Social Media and In Texting: Love and Passion


When you first saw <3 in social media posts or a text from a friend, you’re curious why they say “less than three” in mathematics.    

Actually, <3 is a red heart symbol. Here we’ll explain its meaning and how to use it. 

What Does <3 Mean?

The <3 symbol looks like a heart (if you rotate 90 degrees counterclockwise) and is used to express feelings of love for someone or passion for something. 

In early texting, before emojis were programmed into almost every device, we had to type symbols into our texts and posts to show what we were thinking or feeling. 

These days, you would normally just insert a ❤️ to say the same thing, but some rare programs and devices still don’t have emojis, and using the <3 symbol is an easy way to insert a heart. 

It can also be used as a lazy man’s emoji since most devices will automatically turn it into a red heart for you without you having to scroll through the emoji list to find it. In short, the heart emoji means love, and you can insert it wherever you intend to use that word. 

A heart emoji is almost always a positive symbol unless it is a broken heart, which could look like this: 💔 or like this: </3. 

Generally, there are two meanings of <3.

1. They Love You

This could be in a romantic way, as a friend, or as a family member. It is very common these days to use hearts in texts when speaking to anyone we are close to. 

You could send a <3 emoticon to a sibling, a parent, a cousin, or a grandparent. Or, you could use it to show a friend that you care about them. 

If you are dating someone and they have sent you a message “I <3 you for the first time, you can understand that she or he is saying “I love you”, it could be a very good indicator that they want to continue the relationship or move it to the next step. 

However, If you are in a fairly new relationship and you’re not certain of what your partner means by sending you <3, first, think about all your previous correspondence and the tone your partner uses, and then compare it to the tone of the message with the heart emoji. 

If they used it in answer to something you said, it could just be a sign that they liked what you had to say, but if they used it out of the blue when complimenting you, it might mean more. 

You can always ask! Communication is the key to a successful relationship, so start using it now if you want your relationship to go to the next level.

2. They are Talking about Something They are Passionate About

Another common use for <3 is to express how someone feels about something. 

For example, someone might post a photo of their basketball with a caption that says, “<3 this basketball!” It is similar to saying “I have a lot of love for basketball and passion for playing.” 

And even though we have access to react symbols on most social media platforms, sometimes just “liking” or “loving” a post isn’t enough, and we’ve got to send a whole stack of hearts to show how much we like it or agree. 

When and How to Use the <3 

That’s the beauty of emojis – you can use them whenever and wherever you like. Just try not to be too cryptic or the person you’re texting might not understand you!

You can use the <3 emoticon to replace the word love in just about any text or post, and if your phone or tablet changes it to a red heart, well, 🤷. It means the same thing, right?

Here are some examples of texts you could send to the people you love:

  • “Hey mom! Thinking of you and dad. Just wanted to send my <3”
  • “<3 you honey!”
  • “You’re my best friend! <3 you to the moon and back.”
  • “Absolutely <3 what you said at the wedding. Great speech!”
  • “Omg I <3 this! Please send me the link.”
  • “Babe, do you know how much I <3 you?”

And of course, because this is 2023 and we like to do things as quickly as possible, if you want to send someone a bunch of hearts, no need to type them out one at a time – the younger generations have already shorthanded this for us. Just type <3333333 and you have a bunch of hearts stacked together!

How to Respond When Someone Sends You a <3

If the <3 is coming from a friend or family member, it should be pretty easy to know how to respond – just send them a heart right back! But if it comes from a date in the early stages of a relationship, it might be a little more difficult to figure out the right way to respond. 

You should definitely start by taking your own feelings into account, but also take some time to analyze the message itself. 

For example, if your new girlfriend sends you a text saying, “I can’t wait to see you tonight <3,” and you feel the same way, you should be pretty safe with a response like, “Me too!” You could even add a heart emoji of your own if you want. 

But if you’re not that into her and you’re not sure about taking the relationship further, sending a heart emoji will only give her the wrong impression. Maybe best to keep to an honest, “See you later.”


In conclusion, the <3 emoticon is exactly the same as the red heart emoji and can be used to express love or passion for just about anything, from your mom to your boyfriend to your basketball.

You can use it in posts and messages in just about any circumstance, like telling your dad you love him or hinting to your date that you are falling in love with them. 

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