What is STFU and how do you use it?

Wooden tiles spelling out the acronym STFU.
Josie Elias/Shutterstock.com

It’s almost impossible to browse the Internet without seeing “STFU” at least once. Here’s what this intense acronym stands for and why you might want to avoid throwing it away.

Shut the fuck up

STFU is an acronym which means “shut the fuck up”. People use it in various places on the internet to tell someone to stop talking or as a gut reaction to something offensive or mean-spirited. For example, if someone decides to send you a message with insulting comments about your hair, you can reply with “STFU”.

This acronym can be written in both uppercase “STFU” and lowercase “stfu”, with the two having distinct uses. Capital STFU, especially when paired with an exclamation mark, can sound angry and intense. Meanwhile, lowercase “stfu” tends to sound dismissive, like you’re dismissing something they just said.

It’s worth noting that STFU doesn’t always mean that you want the other person to stop talking, just that you don’t like what they said. If you want someone to stop posting or messaging you, then “shut up” or even block them might be more appropriate for that.

The origin of STFU

Like other Internet acronyms, STFU originated in the early days of the Internet to shorten common expressions to limit word count. It was one of many expletive phrases to be cut, along with other common terms like FU and NFW. The first definition listed for STFU on Urban Dictionary is from July 2003 and reads: “Acronym used for the phrase shut your mouth for efficiency reasons”.

As the internet became more prominent, STFU spread across public social media platforms and private messages. It’s one of the most popular slang terms online these days. There have even been recent songs named “STFU” from young artists such as Rina Sawayama and Iggy Azalea, who grew up in the internet age.

RELATED: What does “NFW” mean and how do I use it?

closure and anger

STFU can sound angry and sharp. As a result, people often use it as a harsh, immediate response to something offensive or rude. So, for example, if someone sends you a scathing personal insult, you can respond with “STFU”.

Because it’s such an angry acronym, you have to be careful when adding it to some of your posts. If you’re mad at someone, telling them STFU could escalate the situation even further. Taking a deep breath and typing out a more measured response might be the right way to handle it.

Other uses of STFU

However, STFU doesn’t always have to be angry. During the 80s and 90s, “shut up” started to become a common phrase to express disbelief in something. You don’t want the other person to stop talking, but you just can’t believe what they’re saying. This made its way to the shortened version, “STFU” being a common way to convey shock.

For example, if someone tells you they won the lottery, you can respond with “STFU, no way!” Obviously, you don’t want them to stop talking, but since winning the lottery is so unlikely, you can’t quite believe it.

You can also use STFU as a response when someone makes a harsh joke. This is done with humor and does not mean that you are angry at the insult. However, this can be difficult to do correctly, so be sure to use this term with friends who will understand your tone.

How to use STFU

Before we learn STFU, let’s get one thing straight: don’t send that acronym to your boss! While there is a way to use STFU that isn’t necessarily offensive, it can still be misunderstood. Be careful before deploying this powerful acronym and use it sparingly. You can use it in uppercase or lowercase, however, uppercase is more likely to sound intimidating and angry.

Here are some examples of STFU in action:

  • “Dude, stop talking. stfu.
  • “STFU is letting you down.”
  • “Hey, don’t embarrass me! STFU.
  • “Stfu about it, don’t say anything.”

If you want to learn more about other Internet acronyms, you should check out our articles on BRB, TMI, and NGL. You’ll be an Internet language pro before you know it!

RELATED: What does “NGL” stand for and how do you use it?


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