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This question is quite subjective as it probably depends on where you live. I was wondering whether the shortened version of notification“notif.” — was used in spoken language. In French we tend to use this exact same shortening when we talk about social media “alerts”.

If you do use “notif.”, how familiar do you consider it?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – tchrist Feb 15 '18 at 14:22

10 Answers 10

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I've never heard it, in fact I wouldn't even vocalise it to myself as "notif" if I saw it on a device. I'd just think "I've got a notification" or "which programming language is that, does it mean 'elseif'?".

Having said that it could well be current with the hipster/pseudo-cool/trendy crowd who use phrases like "totes amazeballs"; I wouldn't know.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – tchrist Feb 15 '18 at 14:22
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To answer your direct question, no, 'notif' is not used at all in American English (I can't speak to other varieties), in speech.

There's a general question here though and that is how, in general, English abbreviations are made.

The bulk of abbreviations in English tend to be acronyms, the initials of the words making up the phrase ('USA' for United States of America), or removing vowels and inferable consonants, only for writing ('abbrv' pronounced 'abbreviation').

Of those that are not initialisms, the most common method is to use the first syllable, ('lab' for 'laboratory', 'teen' for 'teenager'). For a counter example, 'computer' doesn't have a good abbreviation; the first syllable is unstressed and I don't know why but 'puter' just sounds awful and anyway no one says that out loud.

There are some very rare instances where an unstressed final syllable is done ('za' for pizza).

But on the whole, if there is a word shortening, it is the first syllable and it is usually closed and accented.

The general rule, if you can call it a rule, when abbreviating is that the result should sound natural according to a languages phonology. Short words in English tend to be CVC (ConsonantVowelConsonant). French syllables try to avoid closing, so tend to be CV (ConsonantVowel).

You may wonder then what is the abbreviation for 'notification' in English speech (because certainly that word is uncomfortably long in any language). And the answer is probably ... 'alert'. Yes, I realize that is a different word, so not really a shortening. But there is no shortening of 'notification' that people use in English speech.

Of course, in writing and especially in texting, all sorts of ways to shorten typing are used: 2 for to, r for are, etc. There is enough evidence of 'notif' in texting, whether by logical reinvention every time or by culture, that it should be recognized as a repeatable pattern. But in speech, 'notif' just hasn't caught on at all.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – tchrist Feb 15 '18 at 14:23
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    Interesting (and tangentially relevant to this question) is that, as you say, there is no good abbreviation for computer, while in Russian, there is,—"comp". – tenebris2020 Feb 15 '18 at 17:45
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According to my chat histories I've used the word "notif" at least 3 times in the last month, and I've definitely used it in real life. I'm also an Aussie, and we like to shorten our words, which I think is totes amazeballs.

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    The question specifically asks about spoken language. I'd think it would be much more rare in spoken that written (or typed) language. – Max Williams Feb 12 '18 at 14:02
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    Shouldn't it be noto(s) on your mobes? – Nick T Feb 12 '18 at 19:56
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    @NickT I think an Aussie would be more likely to come up with "notie" than "noto" :-) – traktor53 Feb 15 '18 at 4:41
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Native speaker of American English here. "Notif" makes sense as an abbreviation in text, and I've probably seen it in software source code, but I'm also quite sure I have never heard it spoken verbally, even by the various totes amazeballs hipsters I know (granting that I don't know all of the totes amazeballs hipsters).

It's an awkward abbreviation in spoken English because of the stress pattern of "notification". It can't be pronounced as /noʊˈtɪf/, which would be read as 〈no tiff〉 as in the absence of quarrel. So it must be either /ˈnoʊtɪf/, like 〈notice〉 /ˈnoʊtɪs/, or /noʊˈtiːf/, like 〈motif〉 /moʊˈtiːf/—but for both of those the only sound distinguishing it from its cousin is a consonant of the same manner of articulation (nasal, fricative) in an unstressed syllable.

As others have noted, the word is so awkward to abbreviate that English speakers will tend to choose a different synonym altogether, like "alert" or "notice" or "ping", rather than even try to abbreviate it.

  • +1 - whether it's ever used or not, the fact its pronunciation is so close to a lot of much more common words (and isn't exactly "standard" due to how uncommonly it's spoken) is definitely potential for confusion and worth noting by any English learner. – Bilkokuya Feb 14 '18 at 12:13
  • I pronounce it /noʊˈtɪf/-- I don't see why you say you can't pronounce it in such a way. Admittedly I don't think I've ever said "tiff" in my life either... – Roddy of the Frozen Peas Feb 14 '18 at 16:35
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Ultimately, whatever the opinion or experiences of people on this thread, "notif" will be understood by some people and not understood by others.

Abbreviations are much more common in written language, and in social media in particular, where there is often a need (or desire) to be terse, due to limited space, character limits, a dislike of typing (or entering text with one's fingers), or simply being in a hurry.

Thus, one could probably find many examples of "notif" in online communications, regardless of whether it's made the dictionary as a "common" abbreviation.

You ask about spoken language in particular. It's much harder to provide concrete evidence about spoken language, as it is generally not recorded in digital form and search-indexed. But, abbreviations such as this are much less common in spoken language, partly because they might not really save any time, but mainly because they're just confusing: the "covenant" between speaker and listener requires the speaker to try avoid confusion. So, if we're focused on spoken language (which you asked about), then I can confidently say that most people would not use 'notif' to mean 'notification' in spoken language.

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    Yes ... understood by some people, and not by others. Seeing "notif", I though it meant "not if". – GEdgar Feb 12 '18 at 16:29
  • there’s a lot of variance among the common “abbreviations” but today they are generally not used for the reasons you describe. While they may have started out that way, words like lmao are not interchangeable with laugh my ass off. – taylor swift Feb 12 '18 at 19:37
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This may be generational, but yes, notif is used commonly as a stand-in for notification. I would go so far as to say that notif is the one that most people I interact with use primarily, and notification is the pedantic form, like TV vs television.

Note that while notif is a bit more common on social media than it is in spoken language (though I’ve heard it in both), I would call it more slang than abbreviation. Social media and texting has long moved past the point where words were abbreviated just to save typing; notification is no exception. Note that almost all of the extant “texting abbreviations”, e.g. oomf, or lol have specific semantics that long since diverged from those of their long forms.

Also, in response to Mitch’s answer, the short form of notification is most certainly not alert which I have never heard in any context outside of missiles. This is probably for no reason other than Apple deciding to use the word notifications to refer to its lockscreen messages, and the fact that iPhones have the predominant market share among the younger generation.


Note to downvoters: it is difficult to find meaningful evidence regarding the usage of notif and similar slang, especially if you want data on spoken frequency. Standard methods like counting occurrences and frequency of use on Google’s index will be affected by the choice of sample pool more than anything else. notif will naturally be hard to find in say, a search of Google Books, while I would expect it to be predominant on Twitter or iMessage. The former isn’t exactly known for providing credible statistics, the latter is impossible. As with anything regarding slang terms, “personal experience” is the only reliable source.


Although a handful of examples does not prove a trend, here are some public, recent (~1–2 months old) tweets from people that I follow that use notif.

https://twitter.com/thisdressx/status/960636808462729216

I JUMPED RIGHT OUT OF MY SEAT WHEN I SAW THE NOTIF

https://twitter.com/breadstickerin/status/949215772982824960

WAIT DO YOU GET A NOTIF WHEN PEOPLE DO THAT

https://twitter.com/lovedswifts/status/954413958533873664

idk why but your notif didn’t pop up ???

The important takeaway here is that notification is the only word that’s been “shortened” here†, even though there are a number of typing-saving reductions that could have been used, e.g. peopleppl, youu, yourur. The last person has even elected to include a (curly) apostrophe in the word didn’t, a relatively unwieldy character to type on an iPhone keyboard. This indicates that notif was used for reasons other than reducing typing.

† You might have noticed the usage of idk. Without getting too much into the nitty gritty of twitter slang, idk is indeed used as a true abbreviation, but it’s so ubiquitous that it’s essentially the canonical form of I don’t know now which makes it a somewhat special case. idk is also atomic; no one writes dk for don’t know.

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    Can you provide a screenshot or something of a native English speaker using "notif"? I'm curious who you interact with that uses it frequently, because i've never heard it. Maybe bilingual Canada? – Azor Ahai Feb 12 '18 at 19:37
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    @Azor-Ahai more investigation on twitter shows it seems to be determined on an individual level. Some people prefer to use notif while others only use notification. I doubt many people are even conscious of this (I wasn’t until I read this question). – taylor swift Feb 12 '18 at 19:49
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    I can't agree that this term is commonly used. Twitter has an arbitrary character limit that encourages people to abbreviate, but that doesn't make it English usage. . – barbecue Feb 12 '18 at 21:39
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    @taylorswift What country are you hearing or seeing this in? I have never heard or seen the abbreviation notif here in the US. – spacetyper Feb 12 '18 at 23:02
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    @taylorswift Tweets are not standard English usage, they rely heavily on abbreviations and hashtags. And the 280 limit is also very new. 140 was the limit for many years. You know all this already, though. – barbecue Feb 14 '18 at 22:58
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I am Australian. Until I read this question I had never heard of "notif" as a word at all, let alone one used in spoken English. If I heard it spoken I would probably assume someone had said "motive".

If you want to be generally understood, I suggest you not use "notif" in speech.


Having said that, I am a programmer, and might possibly interpret "notif" as "not if", that is some sort of negative conditional. However if it was pronounced to rhyme with "motive" (like "mote ... if") then I would think you were saying "motive".

  • I agree. I'm also a developer. I never shorten 'notification' in speech, but in the right context I would use ntf / NTF in messages – Christian Palmer Feb 13 '18 at 10:36
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I live in the Silicon Valley (Bay Area, California), a giant center of software tech businesses. We use "notif" in spoken language here (pronounced "NOtiff", softening the "t" almost like "NOdiff").

(Also, I was born here and grew up here, and would be considered by most to be "native".)

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    I never once heard "notif" in spoken English in over 6 years in living in the Bay Area. Maybe it's a common argot at your company; I would hesitate to extrapolate from there. – Marshall Eubanks Feb 14 '18 at 18:29
  • I also live in Silicon Valley; I asked a few people (including natives) about this and none of them had ever heard of this usage. Actually they all looked at me like I was crazy for bringing it up. So all we know is that some people in the area use it, but I agree that it's unjustified to extrapolate that it's more common here than elsewhere, at least not without a lot more data. – David Z Feb 16 '18 at 23:06
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I speak 3 varieties of English (southeastern British, Irish, South African) well enough to be taken for a native speaker, and it's unfamiliar to me as a spoken word. If I heard it spoken I might mistake it for motive. In an online posting it is perfectly obvious what it means. I would still hesitate to use it myself. It never does to adopt slang one doesn't really know how to use appropriately.

  • SE British isn't, as far as I'm concerned, a 'variety of English'. – Lordology Feb 26 at 16:14
  • @ Lordology But I take it that in your view the other two are? – BoarGules Feb 26 at 16:20
  • Well, as they're separate countries. yes. – Lordology Feb 26 at 16:25
  • I suggest you write to the OED edtors making your point that their regional label South-East England is unnecessary and redundant. – BoarGules Feb 26 at 16:30
  • I never stated it wasn't a region. It is. You say 'I speak'. I am saying, there is no specific 'variety' of the Spoken English language called 'South East English'. – Lordology Feb 26 at 17:27
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I haven't heard 'notif' used in spoken English in the United States. In context of your example, I would say "social media post" (where post would be short for posting as in posting a message). Do a Google search for "social media post" for many examples.

protected by tchrist Feb 15 '18 at 14:22

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