Wood tiles spelling out the initialism STFU.
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It’s almost impossible to browse the internet without seeing “STFU” at least once. Here’s what this intense acronym means and why you might want to avoid throwing it around.

Shut the F*** Up

STFU is an acronym that means “shut the fuck up.” People use it in various places on the internet to tell someone to stop talking or as a gut reaction to something offensive or mean-spirited. For example, if someone decides to message you with insulting comments about your hair, then you might reply with “STFU.”

This acronym can be written in both the uppercase “STFU” and the lowercase “stfu,” with both of these having distinct uses. The uppercase STFU, especially when paired with an exclamation point, can come across as angry and intense. Meanwhile, the lowercase “stfu” tends to sound dismissive, as if you were waving away something they just said.

Something to note is that STFU doesn’t always mean that you want the other person to stop talking, just that you don’t like what they said. If you want someone to stop posting or messaging you, then the phrase “shut up” or even blocking them might be more appropriate for that.

The Origin of STFU

Like other internet acronyms, STFU emerged in the early days of the internet to shorten common phrases to limit the word count. This was one of several expletive phrases to get trimmed, along with other common terms like FU and NFW. The first listed definition for STFU on Urban Dictionary is from July 2003 and reads, “Acronym used for the phrase shut the fuck up for efficiency reasons.”

As the internet became more prominent, STFU became widespread on public social media platforms and private messages. Nowadays, it’s one of the most popular slang terms online. There have even been recent songs named “STFU” from young artists such as Rina Sawayama and Iggy Azalea, who grew up during the internet age.

RELATED: What Does "NFW" Mean, and How Do I Use It?

Shutting Up and Anger

STFU can come across as angry and sharp-edged. As a result, people often use it as a harsh, immediate reply to something offensive or rude. So, for example, if someone sends you a scathing personal insult, you might reply with “STFU.”

Because it’s such an angry acronym, you should be careful when adding it to some of your messages. If you’re furious at someone, saying STFU at them might further inflame the situation. Taking a deep breath and typing out a more measured response might be the right way to handle it.

Other Uses of STFU

However, STFU doesn’t always have to be angry. During the 80s and 90s, “shut up” started becoming a common phrase to express disbelief in something. You don’t want the other person to stop talking, but you just can’t believe what they’re saying. This made its way to the shortened version, with “STFU” being a common way to convey shock.

For example, if someone tells you that they won the lottery, you might reply with, “STFU, no way!” Obviously, you don’t want them to stop talking, but since winning the lottery is so improbable, you can’t quite believe it.

You can also use STFU as a response when someone makes a harsh joke. This is done humorously and doesn’t mean you’re angry at the insult. However, this can be tough to get right, so make sure to use this term with friends who will understand your tone.

How to Use STFU

Before we learn to STFU, let’s make something clear: do not send this acronym to your boss! While there’s a way to use STFU that isn’t necessarily offensive, it can still come across the wrong way. Be careful before you deploy this potent acronym, and use it sparingly. You can use it in both uppercase or lowercase, however, uppercase is more likely to sound intimidating and angry.

Here are a few examples of STFU in action:

  • “Dude, stop talking. stfu.”
  • “STFU you coward.”
  • “Hey, don’t embarrass me! STFU.”
  • “Stfu about that, don’t say anything.”

If you want to learn about some other internet acronyms, then you should check out our pieces on BRB, TMI, and NGL. You’ll be a pro at internet speak before you know it!

RELATED: What Does "NGL" 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.
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