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Following the new Troy Hunt web site, http://haveibeenpwned.com/, I'm curious to know exactly what it means and how to pronounce it. Since it seems there are many jokes about it, I don't want to make a mistake with my English colleagues.

Troy gives us the following definition:

Pwn: from the verb own, as meaning to appropriate or to conquer, compromise or control.

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  • This is a very specific word for very specific context. I suggest you don't use it until you have heard it used enough by your English colleagues that you "get it" And if your friends don't use it, then you shouldn't use it with them.
    – Jim
    Commented Dec 18, 2013 at 8:37
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    If his friend had to tell him what it meant, maybe the mispronunciation was intended to be humorous.
    – J.R.
    Commented Dec 18, 2013 at 10:03
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    With myself being aged 42 at the time of this writing, as well as a mild gamer but not hardcore, I can't really say I have ever heard it spoken, but it is seen in writing on the Internet much more often. Yes, I completely get it's origins and usage, I just never hear it spoken. Commented May 13, 2016 at 12:58

8 Answers 8

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As you may know, pwn is a typo for "own." In the context of a game, "own" is slang for "completely defeat the opponent; win by a large margin." The word "pwn" is only used for "own" in this sense.

Because it originated on the internet recently, is slang, and has no obvious pronunciation, there is no uniform pronunciation for "pwn." I have personally heard native English speakers argue that it should be pronounced like pawn, like pone, and like own. My personal preference is pone; that seems to be the funniest pronunciation.

It is safe to say that this word is quite slang (though not vulgar). Many, perhaps most, English speakers will not understand you if you use it. On the other hand, it's ubiquitous on the internet.

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    Of course, before that own meant "to illicitly obtain root access on a system", used as an expression of domination over the legitimate owner of that system (by obtaining root, they've taken away "ownership"). From there, it was a small leap to a generalized assertion of domination ("Haha, I owned you!" / "I got owned!"), and later to a generalized positive statement ("Oh, man, that owns!" = "That's cool!").
    – user230
    Commented Dec 18, 2013 at 10:53
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The way I've always heard it pronounced is poned (it rhymes with own)

It is typically used in internet talk and means owned.

i.e. I pwned him in a game of Battlefield

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Well, lots of people pronounce it 'poned', 'pawned' or even owned. It is a typo for 'owned'. I prefer 'pone' but to be honest, there is probably no right way to say it.

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Something no ones mentioned is that the p may not be a typo even if it is next to the O on the keyboard. Within the letter P you have the vertical line of an "I" joined with an "O". I'm guessing the original intent was that it was a trick leet shortening of "I owned". The pronunciation I think is as everyone else has said , poned.

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  • Nope, pwned couldn't stand for "I owned" because the very first use (1999) was in the phrase "I pwned". From rec.games.computer.ultima.online: "Yeah, shiiit! I PWNED YO @zz!"
    – AndyB
    Commented Jun 25, 2019 at 22:36
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it was a hacker culture term years before gamers got hold of it. i heard it back in the late 80s / early 90s. pwn is a typo because on standard english keyboards the o and the p are right next to each other, the i is on the other side of o, not between them. i pwned that system... meaning you got an exploit that gave you total access to do what you wanted with it. pronounced, it's either just own or pone (like corn pone, not p-one). pronouncing the p was kind of a n00b thing to do. definitely not 1337.

pwn, pwns, pwn'd, pwnage, pwnzor

look up leet-speak it's older than you think!

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I have heard it pronounced "poned" (sounds like "owned"). Since it originated as a typo for "OWNED" I'd say that pronunciation makes the most sense.

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I prounounce it as p-eu-nd, or pew-nd.

(a word that sort of rhymes with pew-nd: ew)

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    It could be helpful if you explain a littler better what “pew-nd” sounds like, with an IPA transcription and/or a word that rhymes.
    – Em.
    Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 20:14
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You pronounce pwn as p-own as it is an abbreviation of professionally own.

"Owned is a slang word that originated among 1990s hackers, where it referred to "rooting" or gaining administrative control over someone else's computer. The term eventually spread to gamers, who used the term to mean defeat in gaming." "Owned." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Wikipedia, n.d. Web. 23 Aug. 2016. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Owned.

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  • Welcome to ELL and thank you the well-formed answer. In case you haven't already done so, please take a few minutes to review our tour and help center pages. We hope you'll answer more questions. Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 0:19
  • I notice you have "pwn" in your username. I imagine you'd then pronounce it "DRA-gon-p-OWN-ESS-ZEE"?
    – user45266
    Commented Apr 16, 2019 at 5:57

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