The “AFK” meaning in the gaming community and other online chatrooms

AFK is an abbreviation of the phrase “away from keyboard.” It is an initialism, meaning that it takes the first letter of each word to create a new term that’s shorter and easier to type.

Beth Taylor
Beth Taylor

What does AFK mean?

AFK is an abbreviation of the phrase “away from keyboard.” It is an initialism, meaning that it takes the first letter of each word to create a new term that’s shorter and easier to type.

You can use this abbreviation anytime you’re unavailable to respond to messages or emails. Despite being in use for many years in chat rooms and online communities, it is mainly used nowadays by the gaming community, notably in massively multiplayer online games (MMOs). Online gamers use “AFK” to quickly tell fellow gamers, particularly their teammates, that they cannot respond to messages.

The term has now been adopted in workplaces where informal language is permitted. If multiple people exchange messages using a “group chat” or online chatroom, then it would be appropriate to use AFK to say that you’re momentarily occupied. It should not be used in business emails or formal communication due to its slang origins and informal tone.

What is the meaning of AFK?

Despite being slang terminology, it can be polite to use AFK. Telling people you’re unavailable for a few minutes, whether in a casual conversation or when online gaming, means you can warn them of our absence rather than leaving them in the dark. Examples of when you might want to use AFK are taking a bathroom break, answering the phone, or getting a snack and drinking refills.

You may want to double up on abbreviations and say “BRB AFK,” which means “be right back, away from keyboard,” to be clear that you’re going to return quickly. If you’re going offline or leaving the game for a longer time, you should express that clearly so that you don’t leave your teammates or opposition wondering whether or not you’re coming back.

Some gamers deceptively use AFK when they are, in fact, still playing. This might trick other players into thinking you’re not playing, when in fact, you’re trying to lure them towards you in games such as “Among Us.”

AFK Examples

My dinner’s ready. AFK
I can’t believe you went afk when we were under attack
Going to class. Afk until lunch
I need the bathroom, brb afk
Taking a phone call. AFK
He’s not moving; maybe he’s afk

As with many internet abbreviations and slang terms, we can write AFK in both uppercase and lowercase letters. Only use slang when you are confident that it is appropriate. When in doubt, avoid informal terms so that you don’t cause offense or appear unprofessional.

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