Man looking at computer with shocked expression, covering mouth.
Antonio Guillem/Shutterstock.com

Has someone responded to your message with “oof?” Or maybe you’ve noticed the same “oof” sound clip in multiple YouTube videos? Here’s what this word means and why it’s one of the most popular terms on the internet nowadays.

The Internet’s “Um”

So you might have seen people use “oof” all over the internet lately, and with seemingly little reason. Unlike some other internet terms we’ve covered, the term isn’t an acronym or even an exact, definable word. People mainly consider it a filler term—a response when they can’t find anything better to say to someone.

What “oof” means depends heavily on the context. You can use the word negatively: for example, someone tells you that they’re currently having a hard time with math homework. You might reply with “oof” to signal that you sympathize with what they’re going through. Alternatively, you can use it positively. If you tell someone, “oof, that’s amazing,” then you’re signaling that you’re in awe of the scale of their accomplishment.

Many people also use “oof” like an expletive, as its meaning can be synonymous with “damn” or “f***” in some contexts. It can be a way for people to swear without actually typing in or saying a swear word out loud. That’s why you’ll commonly hear this term among family-friendly YouTube channels and Twitch streamers. You might also hear it as an all-encompassing substitute for words like “wow,” “yikes,” or “ouch,” which are common reactions to other people’s messages.

Rising in Roblox

Promotional art for Roblox game behind an Xbox controller.
Miguel Lagoa/Shutterstock.com

Where exactly did “oof” come from? The word “oof” has been around for a very long time, significantly predating its current use on the internet. In fact, Merriam Webster’s Dictionary, which defines oof as “expressing discomfort, surprise, or dismay,” estimates that the word’s first use was all the way back in 1777. “Oof” is also considered an onomatopoeia, with it being a sound that you make when you “get the wind knocked out of you” or get suddenly hit in the abdomen.

Advertisement

However, oof roared back to life in the late 2010s because of the popular online game platform Roblox. When players would die in the game, they would make a noise that sounds like “oof.” This audio was coined the “Roblox Death Sound.” This sound clip turned into a meme, being inserted into various videos and compilations whenever people failed at something, knocked into physical objects.

Eventually, the term “oof” became a meme on its own, turning into a staple of internet vocabulary for an entire generation of players — even if no one can agree on its exact definition. If you look at the entries for “oof” on Urban Dictionary, you’ll find that most of the highly upvoted definitions seem to contradict each other. Some claim that oof is for when you don’t care about something; others say it’s for when you feel something very strongly.

RELATED: What Is Roblox? Meet the Game Over Half of U.S. Kids Play

“Big Oof”

Like other meme words, “oof” has inspired plenty of spin-offs. The most notable derivation is “big oof,” which, unlike “oof,” has a set of widely accepted definitions on sites like Urban Dictionary.

The first definition is that “big oof” is a response to a regrettable incident, whether it’s something that happened to you or someone else. In this context, it’s synonymous with phrases like “that sucks” or “that’s terrible” and can often convey a sympathetic tone on the internet.

Alternatively, “big oof” can be a reaction to an online feud, particularly when one party thoroughly defeats the other. These incidents are commonly referred to on the internet as “savagery,” and calling something a “big oof” is a typical response.

List of “Oof” Meanings

Confused? So are we. Since oof has so many possible meanings, we’ve narrowed it down to a handy list that you can use below:

  • A filler word, similar to “um” or “okay.”
  • An expletive, acting in the same way as “f***” or “d***” in reaction to something.
  • A method of telling someone that you feel very bad or very good about their current situation.
  • Noticing a mistake or recognizing your own mistake.
  • Expressing physical tiredness or exhaustion. As in, “Oof, that was exhausting.”
  • A means of telling someone that you’re incredibly impressed.
  • Signaling to someone that you’re uncomfortable with something that they just said. This usage is synonymous with “yikes.”
Advertisement

What’s unusual about “oof” is its ability to make sense, even when it doesn’t make sense. Once you’ve seen or heard the term several times, you can likely pick up on context clues to figure out which definition the person is using at the moment. If you decide to use oof in your vocabulary, feel free to use any of the definitions above.

If you’re interested in learning more unusual internet slang terms, check out our pieces on SRSLY, FML, and OTP. You’ll be a web speak savant in no time.

RELATED: What Does "SRSLY" 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 »