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An example of the term in a Laugh-Out-Loud Cats comic strip

Pwn is a leetspeak slang term derived from the verb own,[1][2][3] meaning to appropriate or to conquer to gain ownership. The term was created accidentally by the misspelling of "own" in video game design due to the keyboard proximity of "O" and "P." It implies domination or humiliation of a rival,[4] used primarily in the Internet-based video game culture to taunt an opponent who has just been soundly defeated (e.g., "You just got pwned!").[5]

In script kiddie jargon, pwn means to compromise or control, specifically another computer (server or PC), website, gateway device, or application. It is synonymous with one of the definitions of hacking or cracking, including iOS jailbreaking. The Pwnie Awards are awarded by a group of security researchers.[4]

Popularity of the term among teenagers rose in the mid-2000s, with the spread from the Internet written form to use in spoken language.[6]


Because pwn is primarily used in written form, it has no single generally accepted pronunciation: renditions include /n/ OHN, /pwn/ PWOHN, /pn/ POHN, /pəˈʔn/, /pɔːn/ PAWN, /piˈn/ pee-OHN, /pwn/ PWEEN, and /pn/ POON perhaps from Welsh, and with a double entendre implying sexual domination, but with the Welsh use of the letter "w" after a leading consonant where it's not commonly found in English words. Originally, pwn and its variants were pronounced /n/ in the same way as the verb own, the tail of the p being "silent". A notable usage of this pronunciation can be seen in the Internet distributed series Pure Pwnage (pronounced "pure ownage").[7][8][9][10]

In culture

See also


  1. ^ Pichlmair, Martin. Pwned – 10 Tales of Appropriation in Video Games (PDF).
  2. ^ Computer Slang (PDF). December 9, 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 9, 2008.
  3. ^ Ludlow, Peter; Wallace, Mark (2007). The Second Life Herald. MIT Press. p. 53. ISBN 0-262-12294-4.
  4. ^ a b Naone, Erica (November 2008). "The Flaw at the Heart of the Internet". Technology Review. 111 (6). pp. 62–67.
  5. ^ Peckham, Aaron (2007). Mo' Urban Dictionary: Ridonkulous Street Slang Defined. Andrews McMeel Publishing. p. 230. ISBN 0-7407-6875-1.
  6. ^ "Teen slang now following Internet shortcuts". CTV News. Canada. February 8, 2007. Retrieved October 16, 2017.
  7. ^ The word "pwnage" can be pronounced several different ways. The show's creators pronounce it "ownage". "'Pwn' was originally a typo of 'own', because the 'P' is near the 'O' on the keyboard. The person is still trying to say 'own'."
  8. ^ TeamSpeak chat (December 13, 2005)
  9. ^ "Encyclopedia: Definition of: pwn". PC Magazine. Retrieved October 16, 2017.
  10. ^ Rhoads, Christopher (August 23, 2007). "What did U [email protected]?". Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on May 9, 2008. Retrieved November 26, 2009.
  11. ^ Hill, Nathan (2017). The Nix. ISBN 978-1-5098-0783-3.

External links

  • The dictionary definition of pwn at Wiktionary