desktop computer work from home taking a break

AFK is a common acronym used to tell others when you’re offline. Peter Cade/Getty Images

  • AFK means “away from keyboard” in typing shorthand.

  • Its meaning can be literal or it can simply indicate that you aren’t online.

  • AFK is a helpful phrase for communal online spaces, when you want a quick way to communicate that you’re stepping away.

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Feeling out of the loop is never fun, and seeing acronyms frequently thrown around online can easily invite that feeling. But taking a few seconds to learn them can help you quickly communicate information.

One such acronym is AFK. Here’s what you need to know to understand and use this acronym in your own online life.

AFK’s meaning

AFK is an acronym that means “away from keyboard.” But it’s primarily meant to convey that you won’t be available at your computer or device for a period of time. You can pair it with a time frame to communicate how long you will be away from your keyboard.

AFK’s origin

The AFK acronym has been around since the early days of internet culture, specifically in chat rooms in the 1990s.

It even dates back to an online news bulletin from FidoNews in 1989, alongside other emoticons and abbreviations. The newsletter defined AFK as “away from keys.”

It was later commonly used in the gaming community for online multiplayer games. You can still find it in various spaces on the internet, though it isn’t as widespread as it once was.

The acronym has had a bit of a resurgence, thanks to the game “Among Us,” in which idle players are often labeled as AFK.

Examples of how to use AFK

Like any other abbreviated term, AFK is easy to introduce into your online lexicon.

For example, if you’re taking a quick break, you might type “going afk brb” (read as: “going away from keyboard, be right back”).

Or if a friend is wondering where another person in the group is, you might type “she’s afk” to quickly let them know that person isn’t online.

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