The letters "BTW" in colorful clay letters.
StepanPopov/Shutterstock.com

If you’ve opened your phone today, there’s a good chance that you’ve already seen a post with the acronym BTW in it. Here’s what it means and how to use it.

“By the Way”

BTW stands for “by the way.” It’s used to insert a new idea into a conversation or to bring something up (like a reminder). It can also be used to change the subject of a discussion quickly.

Even compared to other slang terms, BTW is one of the most popular acronyms on the internet. Alongside being used in millions of personal messages and social media posts every day, it can also be seen in website articles, advertisements, and even professional emails. It’s even spoken out loud in real life and has its own special pronunciation.

BTW can be written in both uppercase and lowercase form. However, the lowercase “btw” is much more common, especially with the rise of mobile messaging. In the early 2000s, it was common to see it written as “B.T.W.” with periods in between the letters, but that version is no longer common.

Where Does BTW Come from?

The phrase “by the way” has been in modern written and spoken English for a long time. It can be seen and heard in many books, movies, and songs from before the internet. That’s likely why BTW is one of the very first common phrases to be abbreviated for the internet. It first popped up in online chatting forums in the 1990s and was later adopted by every other part of the world wide web.

Advertisement

The first definition for BTW on Urban Dictionary came along in 2002, and it simply reads “By The Way.” Since then, it’s been added to the Cambridge English Dictionary and has taken a role in millions of online conversations between people.

Bringing Things up

A young couple standing back to back while using their phones.
George Rudy/Shutterstock.com

The main use case of BTW is to bring something up to someone. For example, there might be a recent event, such as a major operation, that you’d like to talk about. Therefore, you could say, “BTW, how did your surgery go?” The phrase can apply to current events, recent TV shows you’ve watched, or anything under the sun.

You can also use it to remind someone of something. For example, you might ask your co-worker, “BTW, have you sent out the email yet?”

It can also be used to change the subject entirely. If you’re still making small talk with someone and you want to talk about something specific, you might spring in and say, “BTW, let’s talk about your personal finances.” In this case, BTW is being used to steer the conversation toward a particular topic.

Another common use case of BTW is to ask a question. While someone else is discussing something, you might message, “BTW, could you clarify the budget allocation?”

What “BT Dubs” Means

As internet slang entered the mainstream vocabulary, some started being said aloud in spoken conversations. Since “BTW” is rather long and wordy to say since it has even more syllables than “by the way,” teenagers started saying “BT Dubs” instead. “Dubs” is a shortened version of the letter W.

Advertisement

“BT Dubs” has since become fairly common in language, especially among teenagers. For example, someone might say, “BT Dubs, are you cooking dinner tonight?” The trend of changing acronyms when they’re spoken aloud isn’t exclusive to BTW, either. Other popular terms like “LOL” are pronounced as written rather than spelled out.

How to Use BTW

As previously stated, while the lowercase “btw” is much more common in chat conversations, both the uppercase and lowercase versions are fine to use. Unlike other internet acronyms, BTW is flexible enough to be used in professional settings and communications, provided that it’s done within the right context. Don’t litter your work email with too many acronyms at a time.

As a rule of thumb, replace any sentence where you’d otherwise say “by the way” with BTW. Here are a few examples:

  • “BTW, don’t forget to take the trash out.”
  • “Oh yeah, btw, how’s your new apartment?”
  • “BTW, are you free tomorrow evening for movie night?”
  • “You still haven’t told me about your new job, btw.”

If you want to learn other online slang terms, check out our articles on TBH, SMH, and TTYL, and you’ll be texting like a digital native in no time.

RELATED: What Does "TBH" Mean, and How Do You Use It?

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.
Read Full Bio »

The above article may contain affiliate links, which help support How-To Geek.