The Meaning of FWIW: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of FWIW? This guide will provide you with all of the info you need on the acronym FWIW, including its definition, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What does the acronym FWIW stand for?

According to Cambridge Unabridged English Dictionary, the abbreviation FWIW is an internet slang term that stands for “for what it’s worth.”  How to Geek and Collins Dictionary state that the phrase for what it’s worth is used to suggest that what the person is saying may not be useful or helpful, or if one does not want to come across as arrogant. 

This phrase is used to undercut whatever it is a person is saying, basically implying that the listener can heed the person’s thoughts or choose to ignore them. This adds a tone that is much more polite than saying, “you can do what you want” or “you can ignore me.” This can also be used to imbue a snarky, empathetic, or dismissive tone depending on your meaning. This comes from context, but don’t be surprised if someone perceives your meaning as snarky.

According to The Free Dictionary, the acronym FWIW also has two other possible meanings. These, however, are far less common than using FWIW to mean “for what it’s worth.” If you do decide to use one of these secondary definitions, make sure that the context is abundantly clear so someone does not take the acronym out of context. The Free Dictionary states that one can also use FWIW to mean Forgot Where I Was or For Whoever Is Wondering.

What is the origin of the phrase for what it’s worth?

According to How to Geek, the term for what it’s worth has been around since the 1800s and has its origins in economics. This phrase was originally used to express a literal value of goods, products and people. For example, a farmer might say that he will only buy a cow “for what it’s worth,” meaning that he will not overpay or be scammed. For a time, the modern meaning and the economic meaning were used at the same time.

In modern times, the economic usage has faded. Today, it is more so used as a bit of a hollow idiom. It does not add much meaning, but a polite tone when correcting someone. The shortening of FWIW began around the same time as many other internet slang abbreviations, like LOL or BRB.

What are synonyms for the phrase for what it’s worth?

There are a few different phrases that one can use in place of the term FWIW. One might choose to use one of these synonyms, which are words and phrases that mean the same thing as another word or phrase, in order to avoid using a slang term, to expand their vocabulary, or to avoid repeating themselves. The below list of synonyms is provided by MacMillan Thesaurus.

  • whatever turns you on
  • IMHO – in my humble opinion
  • IMO – In my opinion
  • something is not worth the paper it is printed on
  • not worth a damn
  • whatever
  • anyhow
  • anyway
  • no matter how​/​where​/​what
  • not to worry
  • TBH – to be honest
  • I’m not bothered
  • so what?​/​what of it?
  • who cares?
  • so much for something
  • not worth the paper it is written​/​printed on
  • something isn’t worth a plug​/​wooden nickel
  • no…to speak of

How can the abbreviation FWIW be used in a sentence?

The abbreviation FWIW can be used in a wide variety of different sentences in order to undercut a person’s advice. In this first example, Nadya is upset. She is getting made fun of for her performance in the talent show, and her friend Katia comforts her.

Nadya: I never should have competed in the first place. It was bad enough to be ignored, but now I get made fun of every day for my performance. 

Katia: Nadya, FWIW, I thought your performance was amazing. Middle schoolers just don’t understand 17th century opera. They don’t get how hard it is. All they hear is some girl not saying words.

Nadya: I guess so…

Katia: Plus, the only thing that matters is the opinion of the judges – they clearly loved it, or they wouldn’t have given you first place. Everyone else is just jealous.

Nadya: Thanks, Katia.

Here, Katia uses the abbreviation FWIW to alert Nadya to the fact that what she’s about to say may not help, but that she is going to share her opinion anyway. In this next example, Nadya comforts Katia in a similar way.

Katia: I just feel so stupid. I thought Tony liked me – he told me he did – and then he just goes and asks someone else to winter formal? I feel like an idiot.

Nadya: You’re not stupid. And FWIW, Tony smells like eggs. He’s so not worth your time or your tears. Let Melissa Bienstock smell his stinky egg B.O.!

Katia: You always know what to say!

Overall, the initialism FWIW stands for “for what it’s worth.” The phrase for what it’s worth is used to add a polite tone to a corrective message. It can also be used to undercut one’s message and say that the person listening is free to ignore them or not to heed their advice. This is a very popular figure of speech and the trending acronym FWIW is popular on social media and in text messaging.

Sources:

  1. https://acronyms.thefreedictionary.com/FWIW
  2. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/fwiw
  3. https://www.howtogeek.com/440143/what-does-fwiw-mean-and-how-do-you-use-it/#:~:text=FWIW%20Has%20Been%20Around%20for,products%2C%20goods%2C%20or%20people.&text=Knowing%20this%2C%20it’s%20no%20surprise%20the%20phrase%20has%20shortened%20into%20FWIW.
  4. https://www.collinsdictionary.com/us/dictionary/english/for-what-its-worth#:~:text=phrase,not%20want%20to%20appear%20arrogant.
  5. https://www.macmillanthesaurus.com/us/for-what-it-s-worth#:~:text=Synonyms%3Awhatever%2C%20anyhow%2C%20anyway,of%20it%20%3F%2C%20who%20cares%3F