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On the internet, “OC” usually doesn’t refer to that teen drama from over a decade ago. Instead, it’s usually used in conversations about memes and other forms of media. Here’s what it means, and how to use it.

The Originals

OC stands for both “original content” and “original character.” These two definitions are fairly distinct, and you can often infer which is being used based on where on the internet you are. Regardless of the definition, you would typically write OC in uppercase.

OC as “original content” is used in internet forums and social media to communicate that the post is an original creation and is not a repost of an older piece of content. This is especially popular in meme culture, where anonymous internet strangers are often vying to originate new memes. By creating “OC,” you can point to yourself as the original creator of a particular piece of content.

OC as “original character” is often used in fan communities. OCs are characters that are not part of an existing intellectual property and are created by people online. You can usually find OCs in fanworks, where authors or artists develop new characters and drop them into existing worlds. They are also common in roleplaying games such as Dungeons and Dragons, where most participants create a new character.

The Origin of OC

The origin of OC is challenging to track down. Unlike other internet acronyms that we’ve covered, OC has many meanings outside of the most popular ones on the internet.

The first definition on Urban Dictionary for OC as “original content” dates back to 2009 and reads “original content.” On the other hand, the first entry for “original character” is from 2008 and mainly talks about the term’s role in fanfiction and roleplaying. Both definitions have risen in popularity in recent years, primarily because of the increasing prevalence of websites like Reddit and Twitter.

Claiming Ownership

In internet spaces, stating that something is “OC” is a way to claim ownership over a particular piece of content. For example, in some Reddit communities, people tag or flair their posts with “OC” to indicate that the image or write-up is an original creation. This can apply to anything, from funny internet memes to elaborate works like art or help guides.

OCs are in direct contrast to “reposts,” which are old pieces of content that frequently get reposted. In many internet boards, the ability to create new content is highly appreciated among the community. Some communities even hold contests that encourage members to create original work.

Characters and Fanfiction

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The definition of OC as “original character” has become increasingly popular in recent years, especially as fan communities have become bigger and more elaborate. OCs are not in the source material and are purely a work of imagination by authors and creators. For example, fans of the Star Wars franchise, especially fanfiction writers, frequently create OCs that fit right into the Star Wars universe.

OCs can serve several purposes. Many OCs are the main characters of a fanmade story and provide an unusual perspective into a familiar world. For example, someone might write an OC in the Harry Potter universe who goes to a completely different wizard school.

Some OCs also serve to further other characters’ relationships or flesh out a backstory. For example, you might create an OC who is the child of two characters from a popular TV show. Besides fanfiction, OCs can also manifest in other types of art. People often create drawings, portraits, and character designs for their original characters.

A Popular Acronym

While OC meaning “original content” or “original character,” is common on the internet, OC has many alternative definitions. If you look at the Urban Dictionary page, you’ll immediately notice that all of the definitions on the first page are entirely different. Here are a few meanings of OC that you should know.

First, OC can mean “out of control.” You can use this to mean that something has become crazy or wild. While this definition of OC is no longer widespread, it may have even predated the “original content” meaning by several years. The first entry for this definition was made on Urban Dictionary in 2004. Another common definition is Orange County, a location in California. It was the setting of the extremely popular teen drama The O.C., which led to “OC” being widely associated with the show and the location for a long time, especially in the 2000s.

There are also some less common definitions. OC is the nickname of several colleges and universities around the world. It can also mean “open crib,” a signifier among teens that someone’s house is open for events. OC can even mean an occupancy certificate, a real-estate document that certifies a home as liveable. Lastly, OC can mean “of course.” However, the abbreviation “ofc” is much more common.

How to Use OC

Using OC is reasonably straightforward. If you’re using OC to mean “original content,” you’d say it while posting your content on the internet. If you want to use it for “original character” instead, you can state that a particular fanwork has an “OC” in it.

Here are a few examples of OC in action:

  • “This drawing is an OC that took me 36 hours to make.”
  • “This fanfiction has a fascinating OC in it.”
  • “I’m the OP; this is my OC.”
  • “The OC of my story is going to be fun to write about.”

Do you want to learn about some other internet acronyms? Check out our pieces on ICYMI, TLDR, and “sus.”

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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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