Have you ever asked someone what they’re doing and gotten a short, two-letter answer in response? We’ll explain what “nm” means, and how to use it in your texts properly.
NM means “not much.” It’s often used to respond to “what’s up?” or “what are you up to?” It’s a very common initialism in texts and social media platforms. It’s considered a noncommittal answer that needs to be followed up to lead into an engaged conversation.
Like other internet acronyms, it’s mostly used in lowercase, rather than uppercase letters. It can also act as a complete sentence when used to answer a question. NM can also mean “nothing much” instead of “not much,” but they’re interchangeable. Whether you read the letter “n” as “nothing” or “not” is up to you.
NM is also commonly paired with the acronym HBU (how about you?) as a way to throw the question back at the person asking.
The History of NM
NM got its start in early internet chatrooms and message boards, like most online acronyms. The first definition of it on Urban Dictionary dates back to 2002.
It rose to popularity when it was used in Instant Messaging apps, such as AIM or Yahoo. It originated as a quick and thoughtless response to online small talk that would precede actual conversations. Here’s an example of a conversation using the term:
- Person A: “What’s up?”
- Person B: “nm. Hbu?”
- Person A: “nm.”
Nowadays, it’s quite popular in texting apps, such as WhatsApp, iMessage, and Viber. It’s also used in community chat boxes, such as in Discord or online gaming chats.
Not Much Is Happening
NM is usually used to denote that not a lot is happening or that someone is looking for something interesting to do. NM is very frequently used by young people who are bored at home.
However, just because you say “nm” doesn’t always mean you have nothing to do. Sometimes, nm is used to signal that things are mostly the same. If someone is asked if something is going on at work, a reply of nm might indicate nothing particularly new has happened.
Because it’s short and lacking details, nm doesn’t actually start conversations. For the most part, it’s used to make small talk with someone before getting into an actual discussion.
Another use of NM is to indicate your availability. For example, if you ask someone what they’re planning to do tomorrow, and they respond with “nm,” it can mean they have some free time. This could then be followed by an invitation to a social event.
NM can also be used even if you’re not yet available. If someone you’d like to spend time with asks what you’re doing, you might say “nm,” even if you’re busy doing something. This signals that you’ll be available for whatever activity they have in mind.
Not Much vs. Never Mind
Another definition of nm is “never mind.” While this usage was widespread in early IRC chatrooms and messengers, “NVM” is now a more common abbreviation for never mind.
Of course, you might still encounter those who use “nm” to mean “never mind.” To figure out which usage is in play, you can look for clues within the context of the conversation.
How to Use NM
Even when compared to other acronyms, nm is very informal. That’s why it’s best to use it only among friends or nonprofessional settings. It’s also not commonly spoken out loud; most people say “not much” or “nothing much” during in-person conversations.
Here are a few examples of how NM might be used in online conversations:
- “nm, same old, same old.”
- “NM. How about you?”
- “nm. Just doing homework.”
- “NM. I have to run a couple of errands in the morning.”