What Is 'AFK'? What Does AFK Mean?

Type AFK when you're going to be away from the keyboard and unavailable

You might have seen "AFK" in multiplayer games or chat rooms and wondered what it meant. If your first thought was that it was similar to the expression "AF," you can rest assured that it is not.

AFK stands for: Away from Keyboard

AFK is a very common expression. AFK can be used in both uppercase and lowercase form.

Typing entire sentences in uppercase is considered rude shouting.

How AFK Is Used

AFK is used in live chatting to let people know that you will not be responding for a few minutes because you'll be away from the computer. AFK is commonly used with a descriptor such as "afk bio" (you are going to the washroom), or "afk phone" (you are answering a phone call).

What Does AFK Mean in Messaging?
Nusha Ashjaee / Lifewire

Examples of AFK

Example 1

User 1: Joan? Are you there?

User 2: sorry was AFK talking to Chris.

User 1: np, I just wanted to get your thoughts on this email I want to send to the client.

Example 2

Person 1: Ermahgerd! I just had my first ever plum donut from the Polish bakery!

Person 2: (no response)

Person 1: Tuan, are you there?

Person 2: (no response)

Person 1: DUDE

Person 2: sorry was afk in the bathroom. Where is this Polish bakery?

Example 3

Shelby: omg, I just got a legendary drop from this quest momb!

Tuan: (no response) 

Shelby: GUYS! Check out my new legendary!

Tuan: I was afk taking the dogs out. Wow, congrats on that new pair of gloves! That's awesome!

Expressions Similar to AFK

The AFK expression, like many other internet expressions, is part of online conversation culture. Here are some other internet expressions that mean almost the same thing as AFK:

  • BBIAB: Be Back in a Bit
  • TTYL: Talk To You Later
  • CU: See You!
  • CUL8R: See You Later! 
  • BRB: Be Right Back
  • BRT: Be Right There

How to Capitalize and Punctuate Web and Texting Abbreviations

Here are a few rules to follow when writing internet abbreviations:

  • Capitalization is a non-concern when using text message abbreviations and chat jargon: You are welcome to use all uppercase (for example, ROFL) or all lowercase (for example, rofl), and the meaning is identical. Avoid typing entire sentences in uppercase, though, as that means shouting in online speak.
  • Proper punctuation is similarly a non-concern with most text message abbreviations: For example, the abbreviation for 'Too Long, Didn't Read' can be abbreviated as TL;DR or as TLDR. Both are acceptable format, with or without punctuation.
  • Never use periods (dots) between your jargon letters: It would defeat the purpose of speeding up thumb typing. For example, ROFL would never be spelled R.O.F.L., and TTYL would never be spelled T.T.Y.L. 

Recommended Etiquette for Using Web and Texting Jargon 

Knowing when to use jargon in your messaging is about knowing who your audience is, knowing if the context is informal or professional, and then using good judgment. If you know the people well, and it is a personal and informal communication, then absolutely use abbreviation jargon. On the flip side, if you are just starting a friendship or professional relationship with the other person, then it is a good idea to avoid abbreviations until you have developed a relationship rapport.

If the messaging is in a professional context with someone at work, or with a customer or vendor outside your company, then avoid abbreviations altogether. Using full word spellings shows professionalism and courtesy. It is much easier to err on the side of being too professional and then relax your communications over time than doing the inverse.