Skip to Content

“Take the L” (Take an L) — Meaning & Examples

“Take the L” (Take an L) — Meaning & Examples

Life is full of challenges. You need to earn good grades to get into a quality school so that you can find a great job.

To get that promotion, you must work hard to distinguish yourself from your colleagues.

It’s not easy, but with hard work and determination, your efforts should pay off.

Although you may be tempted to give up, you should persevere as you attempt to pursue such important goals.

However, you can’t always win, and some challenges aren’t as important to overcome.

You may never truly win that petty argument with your friend. No matter how many good points you may raise, she always seems to be a step ahead of you. In such cases, it’s futile to persist.

After all, you can’t win all the time, so why don’t you just take the L?


What Is the Meaning of “Take the L”?

When someone tells you to take the L, they mean that you should just accept defeat. In this context, “L” is short for “loss.” By “taking the L,” you’re taking a loss. People tend to say this when they see that you have no way of winning. Often, it’s better to admit defeat than to persist in a futile effort. By taking the L, you won’t waste you won’t waste any more time on a pointless endeavor, and you will save some face by losing gracefully.


When Should I Use “Take the L”?

Young people in urban environments are the most likely demographic to use and appreciate this phrase.

However, most younger people in rural areas will understand the phrase as well.

It’s definitely not suitable for a professional environment, and your parents or grandparents may have no idea what you’re talking about when you tell them to “take the L.”


Examples of “Take the L”

Praveen and Vlad just finished a game of basketball. Although Praveen clearly won, Vlad keeps insisting that it wasn’t a fair victory.

Vlad: I know that you cheated! You kept bumping me, and you stepped way over the line for the foul shot.

Praveen: Dude, I beat you by 50 points, and it’s just a pickup game. Why do you care so much?

Vlad: You’re going to gloat about it to our friends, and they’ll laugh at me!

Praveen: They’ll only laugh because you’re taking it way too seriously. Just take the L. It’s just a game.

By obsessing over the fairness of a silly pickup basketball game, Vlad is acting exceptionally petty and immature.

People would be more likely to judge him for his post-game conduct than anything else, so it’s better for him to just “take the L.” In the next example, Lauren tells her friend about her experience with a bad investment.

Katja: Did that stock grow like the experts had said that it would? You bought a share over a month ago, and I haven’t heard anything about it.

Lauren: Not at all. It looks like I bought it at the wrong time. The stock started to decrease in value right after I bought it, so I decided to just take the L and sell the stock before its value could plummet even further.

People often use this phrase when speaking about finances and investments. Sometimes, if a stock is rapidly decreasing in value, then it’s better to “take the L” and sell the bad stock quickly.

Otherwise, you may lose more money by waiting to sell.

Of course, this depends on the stock and various market factors, but it’s often better to just “take the L” when things aren’t looking hopeful.

Lauren works hard for her money, so she didn’t want to lose it by keeping a bad investment.


Origins and Spread of “Take the L”

This phrase first appeared on the internet in the early 2000s. However, the phrase was likely used for some time before this entry.

Although the phrase remained in use by some urban youths throughout the 2000s and 2010s, it wasn’t widespread until the release of a song called “Bounce Back” by Big Sean in 2017.

The tune was extremely popular, and it used the phrase “took a L” in the first line of the chorus.

Although Big Sean used “took a L” in the song, “took an L” is a more common and grammatically correct way to use the phrase. Although the letter “L” is a consonant, it is pronounced “el.”

Therefore, it should typically be preceded by the article “an” instead of “a.”


How to Use “Take an L”

While “take the L” and “take an L” can often be used interchangeably, there are times when “take an L” is more appropriate.

The article “the” is used when speaking about something specific, and “an” is used when speaking about something less particular.

Dwight: Do you think that you’re prepared for that pong tournament?

Eva: I know that I may take an L, but I’ve been practicing a lot, so I’m very confident in my abilities.

If Eva had already lost a game in the tournament, then she would have had to “take the L.”

This is because the loss is more defined after it has already happened.

However, because she hasn’t lost yet, she can’t be very specific when talking about her loss. After all, she has no idea who she may lose to or when it might happen.

Thus, it’s better to say “take an L” in this instance.