smurfing

/ (ˈsmɜːfɪŋ) /

noun

computing the activity of using a specially designed computer program to attack a computer network by flooding it with messages, thereby rendering it inoperable
the activity of laundering money by conducting a large number of small transactions through banks and bureaux de change

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Word Origin for smurfing

C20: (sense 1) from smurf, the name of the type of computer program used to carry out such attacks

Words nearby smurfing

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

ABOUT THIS WORD

What else does smurfing mean?

Smurfing is gaming slang for when a highly skilled or ranked person plays under an alternate fake against lower-level players.

How is smurfing pronounced?

[smurf-ing]

Where does smurfing come from?

The computer game Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness was released in North America at the end of 1995. By early 1996, all of the best players of the game were familiar with each other and talked on game-related chat rooms.

Two of the best players were Geoff “Shlonglor” Frazier and Greg “Warp!” Boyko. At one point, they played on the same team in response to a challenge by another, “Spiderman.” At first unbeknownst to them, Spiderman was another high-level player using an alias. Shlonglor and Warp answered the challenge using their own fake names of PapaSmurf and Smurfette, a reference to two characters from the Belgian-based 1980s cartoon The Smurfs. The ensuing match was a competitive showdown between two teams of players pretending to be low-level ones.

As to why they named themselves after characters from the Smurfs, Shlonglor had this to say in March 1996:

First let me explain the Smurf thing. Warp and I enjoy making up names and playing people at war2. We make them think we really suck and then beat them up. Well we have lots of fun playing as smurfs. We talk in smurf. We smurf us some a** at war 2. I guess that is totally childish, but it sure is fun.

Shlonglor and Warp were very popular in the Warcraft II community at the time (Shlonglor later got a job at Blizzard, the company behind World of Warcraft). Legends of their smurfing began to spread, as did the practice. By July 1996, Warcraft II players were referring to disguised high-level players beating low-level players as smurfs.

Smurfing was later added to the fan-made Warcraft II glossary (web-dated to 2009): “A slang term coined by Warp! and Shlonglor to mean good or famous players using fake names to hide from people then attempting to beat other players.” The definition stands today.

How is smurfing used in real life?

The act of playing under an assumed name to dominate lower-level players is smurfing, the player doing so is a smurf. These terms are very familiar and mostly used in the online gaming community.

Beyond World of Warcraft, Shlonglor and Warp’s smurfing remains popular in such massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) as Overwatch and League of Legends.

It’s considered a fun, if duplicitous, self-aggrandizing, and annoying, way to engage with such video games and the gaming community.

More examples of smurfing:

“League of Legends’ Clash Mode Improving to Prevent Smurfing, Add Clarity”
—Tanner Dedmon, ComicBook (headline), April, 2018

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.