What Does SFW Mean?

SFW means "Safe for Work" and "Software."

Safe for Work

The abbreviation SFW is typically placed in the title of a message to indicate that the message can be opened safely in a work environment (i.e., it is "Safe For Work"). SFW usually indicates that the message content will not cause offense to the recipient's boss or work colleagues. SFW does not mean that the message is work-related. Therefore, such communications should not normally be opened in the presence of colleagues or supervisors, except during breaks from work (e.g., during lunch or coffee breaks).

SFW contrasts with the following terms: Beware "Seemingly SFW." As the term SFW has grown more popular, it has developed a secondary, more nuanced meaning, which is best described as "seemingly innocent." This typically involves a picture of an adult nature that has been edited to replace the adult content with innocent content, as in this picture:


Particularly amongst specialists in IT, SFW is used with the meaning "Software" (i.e., those elements of data or computer instructions that tell a computer system how to work, as opposed to HW (Harware), which are the elements from which the physical system is built).

Image for SFW

When I write SFW, I mean this:

meaning of SFW

SFW also means "Software."

Summary of Key Points

First Definition for SFW

"Safe for Work" is the most common definition for SFW on Snapchat, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok.
Definition:Safe for Work
Guessability:guessability level 2
2: Quite easy to guess
Typical Users:typical user


Second Definition for HW

SFW also means "Software," especially in IT circles.
Guessability:guessability level 3

3: Guessable

Typical Users:typical user


Examples of SFW in Sentences

Here are examples of SFW being used in conversations with the meaning "Safe For Work":
  • Holly: Check out this picture! SFW.
  • Ivy: Hilarious!
  • Colin: Is the email you just sent me SFW?
  • Vicky: Definitely not!

An Academic Look at SFW

When used with the meaning "Safe For Work," SFW is mostly used as a standalone declarative sentence (i.e., a statement). However, it is sometimes used as an adjective. For example:
  • Is this an SFW email?
  • (Here, SFW is an adjective.)
When used with the meaning "Software," SFW is a contraction which uses letters from throughout the fully expanded word. Other contractions, like Dr, use letters from the start and end of the fully expanded version. Contractions can also be formed by replacing a letter(s) with an apostrophe (e.g., can't).

For reasons of brevity in text-based conversations, contractions are rarely followed by periods/full stops and apostrophes are routinely omitted.

Example of SFW Used in a Text


Help Us Improve Cyber Definitions

  • Do you disagree with something on this page?
  • Did you spot a typo?
  • Do you know a slang term that we've missed?
Please tell us using this form.


Try our fun quiz to test your knowledge of slang and texting abbreviations.
gold cup

gold cup

gold cup

  • This test has questions.
  • A correct answer is worth 5 points.
  • You can get up to 5 bonus points for a speedy answer.
  • Some questions demand more than one answer. You must get every part right.
  • Beware! Wrong answers score 0 points.
  • 🏆 If you beat one of the top 3 scores, you will be invited to apply for the Hall of Fame.
Scoring System

Cyber Guru (+)
Cyber Hero (+)
Cyber Captain (+)
Cyber Sergeant (+)
Cyber Recruit (+)