Where does OTP come from?
OTP is a part of shipping fan culture. To ship two characters is to be heavily invested in their romantic relationship. The term shipping originates in the TV shows The X-Files, shortened in the late 1990s from the term relationshipper, used to describe people who wanted the characters Dana Scully and Fox Mulder to have a romantic relationship. The concept, however, was already around, not least from the Star Trek fandom, where fanfiction depicting Spock and Kirk in a romantic relationship was first published in 1967. Shipper generalized and spread beyond sci-fi to describe people who want two characters who aren’t (yet) in a romantic relationship to be in one.
In this subculture, OTP, or One True Pairing, emerged to describe the ship that was your favorite, or perhaps even your only, ship. For fans, an OTP is supposed to take precedence above all other ships one may have. Nowadays, you can have more than one OTP across different fandoms, but the OTP still takes precedence over other ships.
The term OTP has been used online since at least the early 2000s. Urban Dictionary’s first definition for this term is from 2003, and it was used on LiveJournal in 2002. However, the phrase One True Pairing may date back to the mid-1980s. One source suggests it was being used in Star Trek fanzines, which suggests OTP may predate shipping.
Who uses OTP?
OTP can also be employed in a humorous way to describe the relationship between a character and something they love, such as a particular food.
OTP is a very flexible term with many variants. For instance, if you particularly hate a relationship, you might describe it as your NOTP, a play on the word no. A BrOTP is used for when you really love the relationship between two friends, but don’t think it should be romantic. If you want a more polyamorous option, you can choose an OT3, OT4, or more.
Any of these can be used as a verb as well. For example, you can say you’re OTPing Batman and Superman (making the two your OTP), that you’re BrOTPing them instead, or that you’re OT3ing Wonder Woman with the two of them.
“OTPing Mulder and Scully is the fandom equivalent of instagramming your pumpkin spice latte.”
@rachelkiley Twitter (November 29, 2016)
“i’m pretty sure telemain and morwen from ‘the enchanted forest chronicles’ were my very first OTP”
aheartofwood Tumblr (July 15, 2012)
“We're my OTP /Baby you and me”
Troye Sivan, We’re My OTP (2012)