What Is 'FTW'? What Does It Mean?

Young businessmen cheering and laughing
Pando Hall/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images

Question: What Is 'FTW'? What Does It Mean?

While participating in an online discussion forum about cars, you see this weird expression 'FTW'. People post phrases like 'anti-lock braking, ftw!' and 'all-wheel drive, ftw!'. You also see the same thing in an online gaming forum. The gamer participants are posting phrases like 'polymorph, ftw!' and 'druid hurricane, ftw!'.

Answer: In 2016, the most common meaning of 'FTW' is 'for the win', an internet cheer used to express enthusiasm around an achievement.  It can also be used in place of 'epic win' and other expressions of victory.


While there were nastier meanings in previous years, FTW today commonly mean for 'For the Win', a type of cheer, or a strange way of exclaiming 'I was victorious because of this', or 'epic achievement, woot!'.  Examples of FTW include:

  • 'anti-lock braking, ftw!',
  • 'spellchecker, ftw!',
  • 'low-carb diets, ftw!'
  • 'Android smartphone, ftw!'
  • 'hail mary pass, ftw!'

Origin of the Modern FTW Expression

This is unclear, but there are recurring online claims that FTW started around the year 2000 with the television game show, Hollywood Squares. In this game show, contestants would try to complete the tic-tac-toe move for the prize. As a stylistic expression, players would declare their closing moves with such utterances as 'I choose Whoopi Goldberg for the win'. This story is unconfirmed, but seems plausible. Special thanks to reader Marlee for this.

Older Meanings of FTW

Years ago, 'FTW' used to have a very negative meaning: 'f**k the world'. This was a term commonly used by social rebels, anarchists and anti-authoritarian types to express frustration with modern society. Gratefully, this antisocial meaning has dramatically faded in use in the 21st century, and people now use 'for the win' as a modern cheer instead.

Memes Based on FTW / Epic Win

Many photograph and video memes have spawned around the For the Win expression. 

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nIFjVZI_qX0 While you won't see the FTW written on this video frame, this is definitely a victory video that captures the FTW cheer of victory.  In this case, the driver exacts clever revenge on the rude driver who stole her parking spot.

Expressions Similar to FTW:

  • AMAZEBALLS (That's Amazing)
  • Ermahgerd! (Oh My God)
  • Epic Win! (That's Extreme and Memorable)
  • OMG (Oh My God)
  • AMG (Oh My God, variation)

How to Capitalize and Punctuate Web and Texting Abbreviations: 

Capitalization is a non-concern when using text message abbreviations and chat jargon. You are welcome use all uppercase (e.g. ROFL) or all lowercase (e.g. 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.