What Does PWN Mean?

PWN, which can also be written in the lowercase pwn, is online gamer and hacker slang that refers to outdoing, defeating or getting the better of someone in a really big way, or in other words, "owning" them.

Example usage:

  • "Steam pwns Xbox when it comes to game selection, pricing and support."
  • "The Steelers pwned Baltimore last night."
  • "Walter White totally pwned Gus Fring at the end of Breaking Bad."

PWN Definition

If you're not a gamer or a hacker, you may be scratching your head over this strange little word. Is PWN an acronym? An abbreviation for something? And how in the world do you pronounce it?

The word PWN originated in the online gaming world sometime in the early 21st century. The word's exact etymology is a matter of debate, with some sources, including Urban Dictionary, crediting it to the Warcraft gaming community.

However, being as the "o" and "p" keys are adjacent on qwerty keyboards, most sources agree on one thing: Someone, somewhere in the gaming world, made a typo and misspelled the word "own" as "pwn," and a new gamer slang term was born!

How Do You Pronounce PWN?

The way PWN is pronounced lends credence to the widely accepted theory that it originated when someone misspelled "own." While you may be tempted to pronounce it "pawn," the word PWN rhymes with "own."

How Does PWN Relate to Cyber Attacks?

While the word PWN originated in the online gaming community, it gradually made its way into wider use, particularly among hackers, who use the word pwn to refer to successfully hacking someone.

For example, in the summer of 2022, security researchers discovered a vulnerability in several modern Honda car models' rolling code mechanism that allows threat actors to unlock the vehicle or even start the engine remotely. They named this vulnerability Rolling-PWN.

How Do I Know if I've Been PWNed?

You can use the very popular website Have I Been PWNed? to check if your email address or phone number has shown up in a public data breach.

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