What Does “FWIW” Mean, and How Do You Use It?

  A couple of friends who speak with the word FWIW superimposed on them.
fizkes / Shutterstock

While FWIW is not the most popular jargon on the Internet, it usually finds its way into Twitter posts and posts. Boards and chat rooms. But what does FWIW mean, where does it come from and how do you use it?

For what it's worth

FWIW means "for what it's worth." It is a language that rarely has a literal meaning, and is used to politely express that someone should consider an opinion, idea or fact (usually because their opinion is flawed).

If it helps, imagine that FWIW means: "You can ignore what I'm going to say, but I think you should listen to it anyway." The phrase does not really change the general meaning of your sentence, it only adds a polite tone to what you are saying.

So, instead of telling a friend: "You have no idea what you're talking about, 4K TVs have four times the pixel resolution of HD TVs," you could say, "FWIW, 4K TVs have four times the pixel resolution of HD TVs. "

Interestingly, FWIW can also be used to inject a sarcastic, empathic or even dismissive tone in your prayer. These tones come mainly from the context, but as a general rule, any use of "FWIW" that can be replaced by "FYI" has a sarcastic tone. ("FWIW, toothpaste kills the germs of bad breath")

It is worth noting that FWIW is generally used (but not always) at the beginning of a sentence. This is called a prepositional phrase, and is used to tell readers that you are about to politely contradict (or confirm) another person's opinion.

FWIW has been present for centuries

As an idiomatic expression, "for what it is worth" has existed since at least the nineteenth century. The phrase actually has its origin in the economy, and was initially used to express the literal value of products, goods or people. A 1600 farmer could promise that he would only buy a horse "for what it is worth," while a tax collector could try to "steal anything worth it".

There was a time when this economic meaning overlapped with Our modern meaning. You can see this overlay in stories like The Merchant Service (1844), where a character tells another: "Your opinion is worth what it is worth, nothing" (the characters in this work are merchants, and the author is using "what is it worth worth "as a pun.]

  A screenshot of Google Trends interest on the FWIW page.
According to Google Trends, interest in FWIW has steadily increased since 2004. Google Trends [19659003] But this "economic subtext" has mostly faded away. Now, "for what it's worth" is just an empty language. Actually, it doesn't add much meaning to a sentence, it only makes you sound polite when you're correcting someone Knowing this, it is not surprising that the phrase has been reduced to FWIW No one wants to write "for what it is worth" just to be polite.

This shortening probably occurred during the early days of the Internet.There is evidence that FWIW was popular on Usenet at the end of in the 80s, or at least popular enough to end up on an "exhaustive" list of slags and Internet emoticons since July 1989. The use of the word has increased slowly since at least 2004, according to Google Trends, although never The popularity of the initialisms has been seen as "NSFW" or "TFW".

How is FWIW used?

Again, FWIW is generally used at the beginning of a sentence. This indicates to the readers that you are about to disagree (or agree) with the opinion of another person when offering your own opinion or fact.

When your friend says he hates Steven Spielberg's movies, you could say "FWIW, I loved ET" or "FWIW, his movies are very popular." You are not really confronting your friend or saying he is wrong, but you are still expressing your opinion. He can even agree with you just because you were so polite.

  A man wonders when he should say FWIW.
fizkes / Shutterstock

Of course, FWIW feels somewhat rigid at the beginning of a sentence. If you want to relax things a bit, you can say "I haven't seen many of his films, but FWIW, I loved ET."

And as we mentioned earlier, FWIW can carry a sarcastic, empathic or derogatory tone. This is usually based on context, which you will have to feel for yourself. But if you want a shortcut, simply use FWIW in the same place where you could use "FYI".

With this in mind, he could tell his friend that he hates Spielberg that "FWIW only likes French artistic and fartsy movies," so his opinion doesn't matter. "That should silence him.

(As a note on the sidelines, FWIW is excellent for recognizing a message without actually engaging in a conversation. Most of the FWIW examples listed here are incredibly lifeless, but not rude.)

It's difficult to get through the Internet without understanding a bit of jargon. FWIW, words like NSFW and YEET probably won't improve your life too much, but they will help you travel the web without getting too confused.

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