Created as an image meme which made its debut on 4chan.

The phrase originally turned up on Something Awful, but the image meme came into being when 4chan users combined the phrase with a photograph of a snow owl taken by nature photographer John White, which was posted by him to the newsgroup, adding text to the photo in a large, easy to read font. The phrase "o rly" is a short form of "oh, really?" said as a sarcastic or disinterested response to a dubious statement.

Typically, the image appears and is soon followed by other image memes, such as the yarly owl and the noway owl.

Orly is also the name of a commune in the suburbs of Paris, France.