Fubar Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How to Use It

The acronym FUBAR can add lots of flavor to your vocabulary when used in the right context. Learn FUBAR’s meaning today!

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The word FUBAR is one of the most exciting ways to let someone know exactly how much of a mess something is. While it is most commonly used in a joking manner with an origin in World War II, the term FUBAR has a lot of modern usage with very few acceptable substitutes for its intense meaning. Over the past few decades, its general resurgence has given it a lot more recognition in many contexts, many of which reach into regular life. 

Here is what FUBAR means, where it comes from, how to use it in the modern world, and other similar words that came from the same type of military slang. 

What Does FUBAR Mean, and Where Did It Come From? 

The word FUBAR is an acronym for the phrase “Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition;” Another version of FUBAR is “Fucked Up By Assholes in the Rear.” It is commonly seen as a reference to the German furchtbar, which means “terrible.” 

It was used by troops in many American military contexts, such as in the United States Marine Corps, United States Army, and United States Naval Academy. Over time, it found its way into the British Army, Australian Imperial force, Military from Canada, and virtually any other armies that naturally spoke English. 

How FUBAR Became Popular

As time went on and the war ended, the term found its way into general civilian use in Canada, New Zealand, Australia, India, and most prominently, the American Lexicon.

The word is most commonly used to describe a bad situation or the results of an operation plagued with ineffectiveness. FUBAR is most frequently used with cynicism and humorous distaste over the cause of a person’s trouble. 

It also had a lot of recognition in the early 1970s due to its everyday use in complaining about corporate problems. 

FUBAR in Popular Culture

FUBAR still shows up in many contexts around the globe, including movies and TV shows. Examples of its uses in films include Saving Private Ryan and Tango and Cash. The earliest citation of the word’s documented use was in Army Weekly magazine which published an article on the notorious FUBAR squadron. By that reference, the origins of FUBA trace back to sometime before June or September 1943. The word was also seen in 1944 animated shorts directed by Friz Freleng. 

Other Military Based Slang

The army’s penchant for creating acronyms has resulted in many military slang terms. As a part of a wider study of military slang, Frederick Elkin and Rick Atkinson found that most of these slang words first appeared during World War II. 

Here’s some military slang that has retained its popularity in modern-day America. Below, you’ll find slang words commonly used within many modern or historical military organizations. 

SNAFU: Status Nominal: All Fouled Up

This acronym stands for “Situation Normal: All Fucked Up” or “Status Nominal: All Fouled Up.” This was common in contexts like when troops were complaining about the inefficiency of army authority, gasoline rationing, or midshipmen complaining about fleet admirals and their inefficiencies. 

The result of their frequent conclusions that everything was awful led to the expression SANFU becoming a famous phrase all throughout the military. The Americans wholeheartedly embraced it — the name “Private Snafu” is the title character of a series of military instructional films (along with Private Fubar and Seaman Tarfu), written by Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel. The attribution of SNAFU is sometimes given to the British military over the United States military along with a bevy of other terms, depending on who you ask. 

SUSFU and More

Below are a few more popular military acronyms worth knowing.

  • SUSFU: This acronym translates to “Situation Unchanged: Still Fucked Up.” It describes a dire situation that is still a normal state of affairs. SUSFU was used by squadrons in the military similarly to SNAFU and mainly had the same meaning. 
  • An Imperial FU: This phrase means “An Imperial Fuck Up.” The term was used to describe when an officer of high rank from a different country made an order that contradicted their officers’ statements. American troops used the phrase in an allied expeditionary force of WWII in Kenya that included soldiers from the UK, Australia, and the Union of South Africa. 

How To Use FUBAR in Your Vocabulary

One of the best ways to learn how to use a word is by seeing it used in the contexts of actual sentences. Here are some great examples of how to use FUBAR in recognizable contexts.

  • Every time I bend over, I remember that my back is FUBAR. 
  • The poor profitability and negative bottom line of the humor magazine caused the senior executives to feel like the whole business venture was FUBAR. 
  • The imperial war cabinet took one look at the military personnel that were FUBAR and decided to retreat. 
  • It’s a common belief that Bugs Bunny made a cameo in the series of comics, but he was FUBAR, so nobody recognized him. 
  • The senior officers in the navy saw that their main battleship was FUBAR and instantly ordered a retreat. 
  • The New York Times wrote an article about how the rubber industry was FUBAR thanks to new synthetic materials. 
  • There are so many popular movies that make every common soldier look completely FUBAR. 
  • I found a tape reel of Private Snafu Presents Seaman Tarfu in my grandpa’s attic, but it was totally FUBAR. 


FUBAR is probably the most well-known example of military acronym slang. It found its origins in the hard times of war, along with other similar terms that are pretty unlikely to make it into the Oxford English Dictionary. Try using it in a sentence today!


  1. FUBAR | Cambridge English Dictionary
  2. Fubar Definition & Meaning | Dictionary.com 
  3. Snafu Definition & Meaning | Dictionary.com