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

Have you ever seen the acronym TW and wondered what it meant? This article will give you all of the information necessary on the abbreviation TW, including its definition, origin, useful sentence examples, and more!

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What does the acronym TW stand for?

According to 7 ESL, Cyber Definitions, and Urban Dictionary, the abbreviation TW stands for “trigger warning.” A trigger warning is a statement that cautions viewers that content might be disturbing or upsetting to certain viewers who may be struggling with PTSD or other trauma survivors, according to Merriam-Webster. Films, videos, or class presentations often use the acronym “TW” followed by whatever the content is that may be triggering. For example, someone could use the phrase “TW: gunfire” before presenting a video with shooting in it. This way, if someone is a war veteran, or has had another traumatic experience with gunfire, they can excuse themselves and not watch the video so that their PTSD is not triggered. A synonym for the phrase trigger warning could be “disclaimer,” though this word implies a less intense warning.

According to The Free Dictionary and Acronym Finder, the acronym TW also has a plethora of other definitions. While “trigger warning” is the most common and well known, these are all still accurate definitions. However, one should exercise caution and make sure to provide proper context when using one of the alternate definitions because one will likely think the user means “trigger warning.” 

  • Threat Warning
  • Trojan Wall (Age of Mythology game type)
  • Tile World (Chip’s Challenge emulator)
  • Trench Wars (gaming website)
  • TekWar (video game)
  • Trumans Water (band)
  • Team Work
  • Thermit Welding
  • Third Wheel
  • Te Weten (Dutch: to wit)
  • Taiwanese Women
  • Two Wheeler
  • Total Weight
  • Tailwind
  • The What?
  • Team Wound (gaming slang)
  • Time Bandwidth
  • Throw Weight
  • Tackles Won (soccer)
  • Top of Wall (surveying)
  • Total Water Content
  • Transmit Wavelength (Nortel)
  • Tactical Weather
  • Tiger Woods
  • Teeny-Weeny
  • Tongue Weight (shipping)
  • Republic of China (Including Taiwan & Pescadores Island)
  • Tollywood (south Indian film industry)
  • Technology Watch
  • Twickenham (postcode, United Kingdom)
  • Tribalwar (online community)
  • Tomorrow’s World (UK TV programme)
  • Third Watch (TV show)
  • TheatreWorks (theatrical equipment business)
  • Tholian Web (Star Trek)
  • Tribal War (gaming community)
  • Tokyo Weekender (Magazine)
  • Twaddle (unit of measure)
  • Tare Weight
  • Totally Wasted
  • Torchwood (British sci-fi series; Doctor Who spin-off)
  • Time Waived (criminal justice)
  • Transit Windsor (Canada)
  • Trapped Wind
  • T’way Air Co., Ltd. (airline; South Korea)
  • Target Weight (kidney dialysis)
  • Third World
  • Test Witness
  • Toxic Waste
  • Total War (gaming)
  • Technical Writer/Writing
  • Taxiway
  • Transmitter Window
  • Targeting and Weaponeering
  • Threat Evaluation/Weapon Assignment (Tartar Module)
  • Tactical Warfare Ashore
  • Typewriter
  • Test Wafer
  • Tactical Wank
  • True Watt
  • Twinbrook
  • Transformer Windings
  • Tourism Whistler
  • Trainers Workshop
  • Tulsa World (Tulsa, OK newspaper)
  • Telstra Wholesale (Australia)
  • Tactical Warning
  • Turbine Wheel
  • Turing Word
  • Traffic Warden (UK)
  • Tropical Warfare
  • Trade Weighted
  • Thermoplastic Wire
  • Travel Weekly (publication)
  • Tactical Warning Segment
  • Talk(ed) With
  • Time Warner
  • Tilt Wheel
  • Twin Cities (ammunition headstamp)
  • Thought Withdrawal
  • Tupperware
  • TeraWatt (10^12 watts)
  • Traveling Wave
  • (Star Trek fan site)
  • Technowizard (Rifts roleplaying game)

What is the origin of the phrase trigger warning?

According to Psychlopaedia, a trigger is a figurative device that initiates a reaction, like a reflex. This is entirely involuntary and cannot be controlled. People who are watching content that is triggering for them do not choose to be triggered, they simply are. It’s like having an asthma attack from pollen – the pollen was present, and the asthma was triggered. The person who has asthma does not choose to be triggered by the pollen just as a person who has PTSD from war does not choose to be triggered by fireworks. 

When trigger warnings were first introduced, they were used exclusively to refer to a post-traumatic sense of the term. They were used to alert trauma victims or people with PTSD that upcoming material may spark traumatic memories. However, in recent years the term has expanded to include anything that could be distressing or emotionally confronting rather than exclusively traumatic. 

Some people believe that the overuse of trigger warnings might make them less effective for people who do suffer from PTSD or other trauma. Others argue that we are better safe than sorry, and that there is no harm in having a brief message at the beginning of content to advise viewers if they want to proceed in watching. Only roughly 3.85% of the population experienced PTSD.

Some believe that the phrase should be changed to content warning to expand the use of the phrase outside of people with PTSD and trauma, and to expand it to people with intense fears as well. For example, if one truly has terrible arachnophobia or emetophobia, a content warning for spiders or vomit are easy enough to implement. 

How can the abbreviation TW be used in a sentence?

One can use TW at the beginning of any sentence that might be triggering to someone else, however, it is most commonly seen before presenting material that may be triggering to those who have experienced trauma or have PTSD. In the below example, a history teacher is about to show a video to his class.

History Teacher: Now class, I do need to advise you all on a brief TW before this video starts. It is very graphic. While I do have permission from the school board to show you all this video because of its historical accuracy, there are many loud gunshots, photos and videos of blood, gore, and death. If this is not something you think you can handle, I promise you do not need to watch, and you do not need to give me or anyone else in this class a reason why. You can be excused and go read in the library for the rest of the class period, and I won’t question it.

Overall, the trending internet slang term TW stands for “trigger warning.” This phrase is used before showing content that may trigger someone’s PTSD or traumatic memories.