What Is a Subtweet on Twitter?

Understanding Twitter lingo

Subtweet is short for “subliminal tweet.” In other words, it's a Twitter post about somebody that doesn't actually mention their @username or their real name.

Why Do People Subtweet?

Subtweeting is often used to make a comment about someone while keeping their identity vague so that no one will (probably) figure out who you're talking about. You've probably seen a lot of these types of posts on Facebook and other social networks. Examples include cryptic status updates or captions where the poster is clearly directing their message at someone without naming the person.

Subtweets are most commonly used to say something negative about a person, but they can also be used to show admiration for somebody when you're too shy to let them know. Subtweeting can give people a way to express themselves more genuinely, without being too open about it.

Blue bird, representing Twitter, with a wry look
 PrismaIllustration/Getty Images

Tweet vs Subtweet Example

If you wanted somebody to see your critical tweet, you might say:

  • “I didn't think @username's cupcakes were very delicious.”

The user would get a notification that they were mentioned in your tweet, and the whole world would see it. If you wanted to turn that into a subtweet so that the person you're referring to doesn't get a notification, you could say:

  • “There's a guy that I follow on Twitter who just gave me a cupcake, and I didn't think it tasted very good.”

That way, you can get your feelings off your chest without starting a conflict. Of course, if your friends and followers can figure out who gave you the cupcake, it could draw them into the drama and make things worse than if you had just been more direct in the first place.

Be careful what you post on Twitter. Just because you don't mention a person's name doesn't mean they won't eventually see what you tweet.