What "pwn" Means and How to Use It

An Explanation of the Meaning of "Pwned"

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You've probably seen this peculiar term online or while playing video games, used in expressions like "I got pwned!". However, it's used offline too, as people talk about their personal lives.

So, what exactly does "pwned" mean? Is it the same as "pwnage?"

What Pwned Means and How to Pronounce It

Pwned is commonly used as a gloating expression like "to be dominated" or "to be controlled against your will," or "defeated by a superior power." Also used is the expression "pwnage," which is the noun version.

This word is an offshoot of owned, so it's typically pronounced as poned. In rare cases, you might even hear it pronounced as pawnedpuh-owned, or pwenned.

Examples of How to Use the Word Pwned

Are are some ways you can use the pwned expression in a non-internet context:

  • We pwned that other basketball team!
  • Oh, man. I got totally pwned by the aerobics instructor in class today. That was so difficult!
  • Pwnage! I got an A on that exam! Woot!
  • We pwned them so bad 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.

With today's MMO games (massive multiplayer online games), the term pwned has became a way to gloat in one's victory over another player. Conversely, pwned is an expressive way to say that you yourself have been defeated by another player.

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

Origin of the Word Pwned

Pwn may have originated as far back as the 1960's when MIT chess programmers would refer to themselves as chess pieces like Kings and pawns, which sounds like pwn.

In the 1980's, the word owned was used to describe when a hacker would take remote control of a server or other computer. Since owned is spelled very much like pwned, and their first letters adjacent on the keyboard, it would make sense that a simple misspelling prompted the word, which then stuck as a stylistic point.

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

Indeed, digital culture has spilled over into daily life. It's common for the modern generation to use these expressive techno terms in daily conversation. Now that you know how to use it, you're welcome to use it in your vocabulary!