The letters "BRB" spelled out in wooden blocks.
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What does it mean when a friend or coworker takes a bathroom break and uses the term “BRB”? We’ll explain what the popular acronym means, and how to use it properly.

“Be Right Back”

BRB stands for “be right back.” It’s used in online messaging and chatting when you have to leave your device to do something else temporarily. It’s typically used when you’re going to be gone for a short time to do a quick activity, such as going to the bathroom or answering the door. It implies that your conversation partner should wait for you to come back.

It’s closely related to the acronym AFK, which stands for “away from keyboard.” AFK and BRB can be used interchangeably when one is taking a break from something. They can also be used together. For example, you might say, “AFK BRB” to let others know you’ll be away from your computer for a bit, but will be back soon.

It can also be used with the idiomatic phrase “hold that thought” or “hold tight.” When either of these is used with BRB, it tells the other person to pause what they’re saying and continue when the other person returns.

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The Origin of BRB

The acronym BRB originated in internet chatrooms in the 1990s. In the early days of Internet Relay Chat (IRC), most folks had no way of setting a status as “offline” or “away.” That feature became a staple later in direct-messaging applications. Typing “BRB” was a way of letting others in the chatroom know you would be away from your computer briefly.

The earliest definition of BRB on the Urban Dictionary dates to April 2003, although it was used online much earlier than that. BRB was also often paired with “G2G,” a now-unpopular internet acronym that stands for “got to go.” G2G was usually followed by the person’s activity, such as “getting a glass of water” or “answering the phone.”

BRB in Chat and Online

An "I'll be right back" sign in front of a laptop.

BRB is most commonly used when chatting or messaging with others. You can use it with friends, colleagues, family members, and even in professional scenarios. Unlike other internet acronyms, BRB is not always viewed as informal, and it can sometimes be used at work.

BRB can also be used in other places besides internet chatrooms and messaging apps. For example, many websites that are undergoing maintenance will place “BRB” on the homepage to let visitors know it will be back soon. In this particular scenario, however, the initialism typically refers to a much longer period than a few minutes.

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Conversations and BRB

Although people are always connected to their devices these days, taking a slightly longer time to reply to someone’s message isn’t necessarily viewed as bad. This might make the acronym BRB seem obsolete. However, it does serve an essential purpose in an engaged conversation.

If you’re in the middle of an in-depth discussion online or via text, it’s considered polite to say “BRB” if you suddenly have to leave. The same is true when listening to someone tell you a story. BRB is also commonly used during video calls and conferences, where others can see if you’re on your computer or not.

Also, unlike many other internet initialisms, BRB is sometimes spoken aloud instead of “be right back.” Saying, “BRB, gotta go to the restroom,” while dining out with others is fairly typical.

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How to Use BRB

Using BRB is relatively straightforward. Since BRB means “be right back,” you can substitute it in scenarios in which you’d use that phrase.

Below are a few examples of how to use BRB in conversation:

  • “I have to take this call. BRB.”
  • “I’m going to take a shower. brb.”
  • “Hold that thought; brb.”
  • “Can you pause the movie? I’ll BRB.”

If you want to get an even better grasp of internet slang, check out our guides on ITT and ICYDK.

Profile Photo for Vann Vicente Vann Vicente
Vann Vicente has been a technology writer for four years, with a focus on explainers geared towards average consumers. He also works as a digital marketer for a regional e-commerce website. He's invested in internet culture, social media, and how people interact with the web.
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