Where does mfw come from?
Examples of mfw
Who uses mfw?
Mfw can operate as a standalone device or alongside a picture or GIF. Wherever it goes, mfw is sometimes accompanied by the greater than symbol (>), as >mfw. This is because of its origins on 4chan, where stories are often told in a segmented format separated by > as the story progresses. These are known as “green text stories,” named after the color of the font they’re typically written in. Sometimes the > can be used to direct attention to a reaction image of some sort. However, because mfw exists outside of 4chan, the iconic > isn’t as relevant to or understood by a wider audience, and its usage is sometimes mocked outside of the board.
Since its spread beyond 4chan, mfw without > is sufficient to get across your meaning. Sometimes, even the reaction itself isn’t included. When a reaction GIF or image isn’t included, mfw can be hard to describe. In these cases, it often acts as an intensifier for the surrounding text. This places more emphasis on the words and the feelings the person is trying to communicate. The reader of this text can then imagine what the writer’s face looked like when experiencing those emotions. When a reaction GIF or image is included, the emphasis clearly falls onto these pictorial representations instead of leaving it somewhat ambiguous.
The spelled-out phrase my face when can also replace any instance of mfw, but this is rare in comparison.
A companion to mfw is yfw (your face when), which is used in the same way as mfw. Yfw is used with the understanding that it is referring to the reader’s reaction.
This is not meant to be a formal definition of mfw like most terms we define on Dictionary.com, but is rather an informal word summary that hopefully touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of mfw that will help our users expand their word mastery.