What Does FWIW Mean?

FYI, this is what FWIW means.

Imagine you and a friend are having a debate over text about who the greatest actor alive is. Your pick is Denzel Washington, but your friend disagrees. He types back, “FWIW, Daniel Day-Lewis has won more Oscars.”

You could respond, “And FWIW, Denzel has been nominated more times.” But that’s assuming the unusual-looking abbreviation didn’t slow you down. If it did, instead of offering your quick counterpoint, you may have just sat there wondering, “What does FWIW mean?” (Have you ever wondered what RSVP stands for?)

So, what does FWIW mean?

FWIW means “for what it’s worth.” It almost always comes at the start of a statement to preface whatever follows with, “You may choose to ignore this, but I’ll say it anyway.” In this sense, FWIW is similar to, “in my opinion,” but it’s even stronger than that. Take the example above. How many Oscars an actor has won is not a matter of opinion, but an objective fact. The subjectivity comes from deciding how heavily to rely on that statistic when determining and comparing the merit of different actors. By the way, this is why they’re called the Oscars.

So, think of FWIW more as a mixture of “in my opinion” and “for your information.” This means it can introduce an idea that’s meant to be helpful. But it can also inject a snarky tone into a statement. (More on that later.)

Where does the phrase come from?

FWIW was originally an economic phrase. Potential buyers interested in purchasing land, for example, or livestock, would offer an amount of money equal to the actual value of those things. After all, no one likes paying more for something than what it’s worth.

At a certain point, however, that meaning began to overlap with a more subjective—and more sarcastic—one. One early example from literature is in William Henry Oxberry’s 1844 play, “Newton Foster, or The Merchant Service.” In the play, one character says to another, “Consequently your opinion goes for what it’s worth—nothing.”

How can you tell tone with FWIW?

As with all electronic communication, context is everything. Usually, however, a person who types FWIW isn’t looking to be dismissive. More often than not, they want simply to emphasize a point or to politely disagree.

Want to use FWIW in your own message, but don’t want to sound snide? Check out these essential rules of texting etiquette.