I know it is a malformation of ownage or to dominate your opponent beyond normal or average means of victory, but why is it Pwnage? Why the 'P' there? Was it a combination of two different words?

  • 12
    p is right beside o and people do not check their spelling.
    – user9983
    May 8, 2012 at 4:59
  • 1
    That's it ?? And it just stuck ?
    – Zero
    May 8, 2012 at 5:00
  • 1
    Yes that's it. People laughed and thought it was funny and then it just spread.
    – Mr Smooth
    May 8, 2012 at 5:01
  • 3
    .... And I thought there was something interesting to the story -_-;
    – Zero
    May 8, 2012 at 5:03
  • 1
    I heard it came from an Unreal map but I need to find the reference
    – JohnoBoy
    May 8, 2012 at 5:07

4 Answers 4


The best place to look is here, http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/owned-pwned

Owned (below: Variations) is a “leetspeak” slang word, derived from the traditional meaning of the verb “own”, as meaning to appropriate or conquer to gain ownership. The term strongly implies domination, severe defeat, and/or humiliation of a rival. For instance, “I owned the network at MIT” indicates that the speaker had cracked the servers and had the same root-level privileges that the legitimate owner of the servers had. It is also now primarily used in the Internet gaming culture to taunt an opponent who has just been soundly defeated (e.g., “You just got pwned!”) and as popular slang, outside of the internet. It is partly synonymous with a high degree of fail, and while sometimes these terms have been used interchangeably, it is more proper to say that someone or something is “fail” if they have been “owned.”

Edit as per comments.

The “p” in “pwned” alteration within the computer community has been believed to have have originated from typing too fast on the standard English QWERTY keyboard, thus missing the “o” and typing “p” instead. It could also be thought to pay homage to early hackers who tampered with phone equipment rather than computers--and “pwn” may simply be following this trend. (e.g., phishing, phreaking) According to one definition in the UrbanDictionary, the term “pwn” dates back to the 1960s at M.I.T. It was used competitively by programmers working on chess AI. When one out programmed the others he would refer to himself as King and the others as pawns. It started being used on Fido Net across the BBS world before internet went public, although it was used on the internet between university’s at the time.

  • 3
    Would be useful if you'll also quote the reason for the "p" variation, since that's what the question is actually asking.
    – Oak
    May 8, 2012 at 8:50
  • 1
    Unless a quote supports that pwn was in fact a typo I always believed it was adopted to signify the next level of ownage, since p is one letter after o in the alphabet. I may be wrong but it makes sense, and over time the popularity of pwn increased and it's "own + 1" meaning flattened out to the same severity of ownage.
    – Chris
    May 8, 2012 at 17:01

The origin of the word is exactly what DavidYell said.

He omitted the reason "p" is used, though, so here comes:
Using "P" instead of "o" has a simple reason; it comes from a common typo, when writing "owned" in a hurry. When you're pwning your opponents, you mostly don't have time to correct your typos. That also is why it should be pronounced the same way.


pwned appeared in text on a video game screen when the gamer lost.

you have been pwned.

the typo appeared for all to see. and that is how it spread. not through normal typos, but that it was a typo on a video game.

  • 3
    This sounds like the start of a great answer. But your missing quite a bit.. What game was it in? When was it released? Do you have any source that this is how it started and that it was a typo?
    – user228576
    Jul 7, 2021 at 22:13

PWN, or PWNED is derived from OWN respectively OWNED. Some people say the 'p' comes from the word 'pawn' (farmer, boor, chuff)..

But 'p' is actually standing for POWER -> POWERownd/POWERowned and thats then a even bigger denudation in sense of owning or dominating your opponents :-)

  • 4
    Sounds reasonable, but do you have a reliable source for this?
    – Mantisen
    May 8, 2012 at 8:44
  • 6
    It's a backformation. The real origin is most likely the result of a common typo that eventually became 'standard' usage. May 8, 2012 at 8:52

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