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One of the variations of owl photos (Northern Spotted Owl)

O RLY? is an Internet phenomenon, typically presented as an image macro featuring a snowy owl.[1] The phrase "O RLY?", an abbreviated form of "Oh, really?", is popularly used in Internet forums in a sarcastic manner, often in response to an obvious, predictable,[2][3] or blatantly false statement. Similar owl image macros followed the original to present different views, including images with the phrases "YA RLY" (Yeah, really.), "NO WAI!!" (No way!), and NO RLY. (Not really.)[4][5]


The phrase "O RLY?" was used on the Something Awful Forums at least as early as August 2003.[6] The original "O RLY?" snowy owl image macro is based on a photo taken by nature photographer John White, which he posted to the newsgroup alt.binaries.pictures.animals in 2001.[7] According to White, the owl's expression in the photo was due to the bird panting to cool off, similar to a dog.[8] The expression was interpreted by an unidentified person to say "oh really?", and the phrase O RLY? was added in large letters (using the Impact typeface) at the bottom of the image. The O RLY? owl quickly became a standard retort to disputed statements to express disbelief,[9] and was followed by other owl image macros with phrases such as "YA RLY", "NO WAI!", "SRSLY?" and a number of others.[8]

Outside of Internet forums, O RLY? has been referenced in various video games, including World of Warcraft in which the auctioneer characters O’Reely and Yarly are a reference to "O RLY?" and "YA RLY!", respectively.[10]

Hoots computer worm[edit]

In 2006, anti-virus company Sophos discovered a computer worm known as "W32/Hoots-A", which sends a graphical image of a snowy owl with the letters "O RLY?" to a print queue when it infects a Windows-based computer.[11][12] A Sophos spokesman said that it appeared that the virus, written in Visual Basic, was not written by a professional, but that: "it appears this malware was written for a specific organization, by someone who had inside knowledge of their IT infrastructure."[13]


O’Reilly Media's book covers on programming and technology have been parodied online using the term O RLY?, first popularised by a meme generator by Ben Halpern.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hogstrom, Erik (19 August 2007). "Cat-tales". Telegraph-Herald. Dubuque, Iowa. Retrieved 7 March 2010.
  2. ^ Agger, Michael (21 May 2007). "Cat Power – You cannot resist lolcats". Slate. Retrieved 7 March 2010.
  3. ^ Rohling, Simon (2 November 2007). "HALP! Therez LOLCats Evrywhare!". Telepolis (in German). Heise. Retrieved 7 March 2010.
  4. ^ Langton, Jerry (2007-09-22). "Funny how 'stupid' site is addictive". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2008-05-24.
  5. ^ Sutherland, JJ (May 16, 2006). "'O RLY!' Worm Confirms Faith In Humanity". NPR. Retrieved 7 March 2010.
  6. ^ Fantastipotamus (2003-08-30). "What was the weirdest/funniest answer you ever put on a test?". Retrieved 2007-02-14.
  7. ^ John White (2001-02-17). "Snowy Owl (Nyctea scandiaca)003 – Silly lookingface". Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-01-20.
  8. ^ a b Patrizio, Andy (December 7, 2007). "O RLY? Thank Photoshop For Internet's Goofy Memes". QuinStreet Inc./InternetNews.com. Retrieved 6 March 2010.
  9. ^ Clark, Neils; P. Shavaun Scott (2009). "Appendix C. Commonly used Internet and gamer slang". Game Addiction: The Experience and the Effects. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-4364-2.
  10. ^ Arendt, Susan (January 4, 2008). "14 Pop Culture Easter Eggs in World of Warcraft". Wired.com. Retrieved 7 March 2010.
  11. ^ Staff Writers (2006-05-12). "Sophos discovers hooting virus". CRN Australia. crn.com.au. Archived from the original on 2006-07-08. Retrieved 2006-07-16.
  12. ^ Khare, Sharon (May 15, 2006). "Owl Virus Targets Network Printers". Tech2. Archived from the original on July 14, 2012. Retrieved 7 March 2010.
  13. ^ "Hoots mon, there's a worm in my printer!". The Inquirer. Incisive Financial Publishing Limited. May 12, 2006. Archived from the original on March 9, 2010. Retrieved 6 March 2010.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  14. ^ Leswing, Kif. "These hilarious memes perfectly capture what it's like to work in tech". Business Insider. Retrieved 2020-04-12.

External links[edit]