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This Wednesday is debuting a new series of posts.  The first Wednesday of the month will feature a gaming word.  This idea started from a few different guild chats where someone would ponder the beginnings of this or that word that has become a part of gaming culture.  We'll start with 2 words this time, since we're startin' this off “late” and many of the words that will be featured here branch out from a form of “leetspeak.”  Let's have fun with this, shall we?  Oh and if anyone has any suggestions or requests, post 'em up in the comments.  I will gladly address those!  (A special thank you to guildies Blood and Gabb for gettin' this idea started!)


Also known as “elite,” “1337,” “l33t,” and other variations.  Leetspeak started out as a form of communication for hackers across the internet.  They would utilize numbers, symbols, and misspellings to create cryptic messages to each other or as an attempt to bypass different filters.  This type of communication was used a lot in the 1980s over bulletin board systems (BBS).

Leet, shortened from elite, was often used as an adjective to describe or boast about one's knowledge of computers and accomplishments.  However, leetspeak has evolved in the gaming world to provide short hand in chats and/or sarcasm.  Although, you will still see some people using it to boast about their “leetness” in the gaming world.

Example: I'm a 1337 blogger that can look up these words for your amusement.


Now we get into the meat and potatoes… the fun stuff!  I'm sure most of you have “heard” these words used in game and possibly spoken in daily conversation.  (No, maybe that's just me? hehe)  So what does it mean to be owned? or pwned?  And why do they mean the same thing?


This is a slang term to describe a defeat.  It is meant to be humiliating.  You didn't just lose, you got OWNED!  This has evolved though.  Owned previously was used by hackers to refer taking control over another computer or network.  However, it has become a way of describing victory against a mob or another player.


There are a few different suggestions, if you will, as to how own evolved into pwn.  I'm not sure there is any one right answer and it is quite possibly a culmination of several of the following scenarios:

1.  The “o” and “p” keys on the keyboard are close together, making it a common typo that eventually became its own word.

2.  In the olden days of gaming across a BBS and playing chess, winning by use of checkmate with a pawn.**

3.  In a Warcraft game, a designer apparently made a typo of “player has been owned” but entered “player has been pwned” instead.**

4.  As an homage to early hackers that tampered with phones, as other hacker slang start with the letter “p” to purposely misspell words.***

There ya have it.  I hope you enjoyed yourself and maybe learned a little gamer history!

Leetspeak, Leet, Pwn***, Own**, Owned, Pwn(2)

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  • Hahaha, i love this post- quite clever you trying to work out their origins(accurate or not). Funnily enough when i read the start i straight away wondered “Where would Pwn’d of come from?” and was instantly quenched by your post. :D.

    From your definition, i think that this is the most acurate;
    “In the olden days of gaming across a BBS and playing chess, winning by use of checkmate with a pawn.**”

    Im not sure why, but id say it would be like this:
    Pawn takes queen- YOU GOT PAWNED = Pwned.
    So yeah, you was super acurate i think :).

    Great Read :D.

  • ZOMG! I can haz histories?

    I think you just pwn’ed pwn.

    My personal favorite myth is that pwn actually means a Whale’s Va…. wait, wrong quote. :-p

  • @Kromus – Yeah, it was fun in guild chat when we started talking about where certain phrases originated from, which led to me looking stuff up. I figured I might as well share what I learned! 😉 And certainly winning chess with a pawn is the ultimate definition of being pwned… what a humiliating way to lose!

    @Fulg – U can haz histories! 😀 I’m looking forward to continuing these lil’ lessons once a month and see where they take us!


We are a family of gamers. Mom (Darcy/Syrana) and Dad (Brian/Sideshow) have been gaming for as long as they can remember back when you only had a joystick to use and saved your games to cassette tapes.

They've been gaming together since they met in 2002. Sometime after 2006, they both started playing World of Warcraft and did that for many years. They started this blog, originally called Sideshow & Syrana which has now transitioned to the new Stay-At-Home Gamers site, while keeping all of the original content.

Starting in 2010, two more gamers came along (now known as Princess Boo and Mr. X) and they are now old enough where they both enjoy playing games and watching others play games. They are both excited to have others to watch them play their favorite games. Come along with us and let's enjoy these games together!