Learn the Definition of 'Pwned' and How to Use It Properly

Hint: Getting Pwned Isn't Good

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You've probably seen this peculiar term online or while playing video games, used in phrases like "I got pwned!" People use it in offline conversations, as well. So, what exactly does "pwned" mean? Is it the same as "pwnage?"

Meaning and Pronunciation

"Pwned" is commonly used as a gloating expression of dominance, control, or victory. If you've gotten pwned, you've been exposed as weaker than your opponent. Used as a noun, "pwnage" is the experience of being (or causing someone to be) pwned.

Usage Examples

Here are some ways you can use "pwned" in a non-internet context:

  • "We pwned the other basketball team!"
  • "Oh, man. I got totally pwned by the aerobics instructor in class today. That was rough!"
  • "Pwnage! I got an A on the exam!"
  • "We pwned them so badly in dodgeball today! Did you see how sad they looked at the end?"
  • "That speeder got totally pwned by that radar-trap cop!"
  • "Captain America pwned Iron Man big time in that movie."
  • "Your argument made no sense. She totally pwned you."

With today's MMO (massive multiplayer online) games, the term "pwned" has become a way to gloat in victory over another player. Conversely, "pwned" is an expressive way to say that you were defeated by another player:

  • "I got pwned by those three horde players. They ganked me bad."
  • "We pwned the other team!"
  • "Hahaha! Jason got pwned in Arena today!"
  • "That was total pwnage! We crushed that boss monster!"

Other Origins of "Pwned"

"Pwned" is commonly attributed to a mistake in the online game Warcraft, in which the word "owned" was misspelled on a map—so it follows that it's typically pronounced as "poned." You also might hear it pronounced as "pawned," "puh-owned," or  "pwenned," but these are less common ways to say it.

The term also might have originated as far back as the 1960s, when MIT chess programmers referred to themselves as chess pieces such as kings and pawns, which is close to "pwn."

In the 1980s, hackers use the word "own" to describe the act of taking remote control of a server or other computer. Given that "owned" is spelled very much like "pwned," and their first letters are adjacent on the keyboard, a simple misspelling might have prompted the word's birth.

Another "pwn" origin story is that it follows the "p" trend in other tech-related words such as phishing and phreaking.

It's yet another example of digital culture spilling over into daily life. Expressive techno terms are ever more common in daily conversation. Now that you know how to use it, pwn it!