ZZZ

or zzz


(used to represent the sound of a person snoring.)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

VOCAB BUILDER

What does ZZZ mean?

ZZZ is used to indicate that someone is sleeping or to represent the sound of snoring, especially in illustrations like comics and cartoons.

ZZZ is also seen as zzz and in various other forms of capitalization and with a varying number of Z’s (such as ZzZzZ). It is now often used in texting and other written communication to refer to sleeping or boredom.

Example: I thought Carla was going to come, but she just texted me “zzz,” so I guess she’s going to sleep.

Where does ZZZ come from?

The letter Z has been used to represent a buzzing sound since at least the 1850s, when Henry David Thoreau described the sound of a locust as a “dry z-ing.” Some time after that, it started to be used to represent the sound of snoring. This use was especially popularized by comic strips, in which it is placed near a character’s head to imply that they’re snoring or sleeping. Later, it became synonymous with deep sleep.

When you read ZZZ, you don’t typically pronounce it as Z-Z-Z—in fact, it’s not usually pronounced in any way at all. It’s more like a symbol than a word. When you pretend like you’re sleeping (when playing with children, for example), you usually throw in some heavy snoring for effect (since it’s funnier than just lying there silently). ZZZ is used in much the same way. It originally indicated a heavy snoring sound, but often it’s simply intended to indicate that someone is sleeping, especially very soundly. ZZZ is most often found in comics, but it can also be found in other writing.

People often use ZZZ in texts and other messages to indicate either that they are about to go to sleep or to joke that they have been put to sleep by someone or something very boring (such as a book in which someone describes the sound of insects). There are two emoji that feature ZZZ and are often used for these same purposes: 😴 and 💤.

Relatedly, the slang word z’s meaning “sleep” (as in the phrases catch some z’s) is based on the use of Z in ZZZ to indicate snoring or sleep.  ​

Did you know ... ?

What are some words that share a root or word element with ZZZ

What are some words that often get used in discussing ZZZ?

How is ZZZ used in real life?

ZZZ is most often used in comics and other illustrations, but it can also be used in texts or other forms of written communication to indicate sleep or boredom.

 

 

Try using ZZZ!

Which of the following words is NOT associated with ZZZ?

A. snore
B. sleep
C. awake
D. snooze