AFK

/ text messaging /

abbreviation for

away from keyboard

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Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

VOCAB BUILDER

What does AFK mean?

Frequently found in chat rooms of massively multiplayer online games (MMOG), AFK is short for away from keys for when you aren’t actively on a computer.

How is AFK pronounced?

[ey-ef-key]

Where does AFK come from?

AFK, frequently written as the lowercase afk, can be found as early as 1989 when the online newsletter Fidonet listed it along with a few other old-school internet acronyms such as brb and lol.

Back then, AFK was used in IRC (Internet Relay Chat), an early application for online chatting. People would use the acronym so that others would know why they weren’t responding to messages: They were away from their computer keyboard, or keys.

With the rise of MMOGs in the 1990s, members of the gaming community began using AFK in in-game chat rooms for players who were idling.

How is AFK used in real life?

AFK is mostly used in contexts where there is instant communication, such as in chat rooms, texting, and online gaming. While less common, it does appear on social media, although typically in a gaming-related post. AFK is often used as a modifying phrase (going or being AFK). People who are habitually AFK may be referred to as AFKs.

Note

This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.