Incels: A Guide to Symbols and Terminology
Online incel communities represent a risk to both health and public safety. The men involved in the incel ecosystem are angry, isolated, depressed, and often suicidal. The Toronto van attack in 2018 and the more recent attack in February 2020 have put their capacity for real-world harm beyond doubt. It is also clear to anyone who spends time in these communities—where both suicidal ideation and suicide itself are rampant—incels also pose a significant threat to themselves. The first step in understanding how to engage with these at-risk men is to understand how they communicate and share their worldview.
Incels have developed their own coded and highly specialised language, which they use to communicate in online forums and spread their ideology. This guide aims to demystify the jargon and symbols they employ; provide definitions and context; and demonstrate how language choices fit into a wider system of belief. By doing so, we hope to empower practitioners, front-line service workers and journalists to identify individuals who are involved with the incel community, understand their unique frames of reference, and ultimately, feel able to engage with them.