AFK – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Did someone type ‘AFK’ in the chat while you’re playing Call of Duty online? This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this acronym.


The acronym ‘AFK’ stands for ‘Away from Keyboard.’ It’s a common phrase in the gaming community, meaning you’re stepping away from the keyboard for a temporary leave of absence.

If gamers are going to return to their post shortly, they’ll usually tag ‘brb’ (be right back) after ‘AFK’ to let their teammates know they’ll be back soon. If you type ‘AFK’ into the chat, you’re unavailable, and the team will have to manage without you in your absence.

While ‘AFK’ is gaming slang, it’s found its way into the general English vernacular. Many people will use ‘AFK’ to describe how they’re not at work or near their work computer.

Example Usage

“Okay, boys, I’m AFK. I have to go and pick up my kids from school. I’ll get back to you later. Do me a favor and win the tournament for us.”

“I don’t know what happened to Jim. He’s been AFK for the last few hours, and we need him in this next game.”

“If you’re leaving the game, let everyone know and type ‘AFK’ in the chat. If you just leave without doing anything, people will assume you’re still playing and include you in the conversation.”

“I’m going to step out for a few hours. I’ll be back later. I’m AFK, so leave me out of the next few games.”

“There’s no way he’s still AFK. Somethings going on here. I bet he’s logged onto another user name and trying to game the system.”

“I need to hit the bathroom, guys. I’m going AFK for a bit. Don’t worry. I’ll be back in time for the next game.”

“Why do you always go AFK when we need you the most? You’re the weakest link in the team. We’re going to have to let you go if you don’t improve your performance.”

“I’m AFK. I’ll return to gameplay at 2pm. You can get in touch with me through DM if you need me.”


The acronym ‘AFK’ originates from the gaming fraternity. Gamers across the world communicate in chat when playing games online. The chat is the guiding force holding team-play games together, allowing for effective communication between team members.

Online and LAN gaming took off in the 1990s, with the first MMO multi-player online games appearing towards the end of the 1990s. Terms like ‘brb’ and ‘AFK’ became part of the gaming vernacular, along with many other abbreviations.

Language experts are unsure if ‘AFK’ developed in the gaming community or online chatrooms. However, the general consensus is that gaming brought the term into mainstream use.

Phrases Similar to AFK

  • BRB.

Phrases Opposite to AFK

  • In-game.

What is the Correct Saying?

  • AFK.
  • Away From Keyboard.

Ways People May Say AFK Incorrectly

‘AFK’ only has use in the online gaming community. If you’re leaving your keyboard for a drink of water or using the bathroom, you’ll type AFK in the chat, not the full version ‘Away From Keyboard.’ You wouldn’t use it at work in emails and other corporate communications to describe how you’re away from your post.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase AFK

You can use the acronym ‘AFK’ if you’re a gamer. Typically, gamers will type the abbreviation into the chat to let other people in the game know they aren’t available. Unlike ‘BRB,’ there is no set time frame for your return to the keyboard after typing ‘AFK’ in the chat. You could return to the game in a few minutes or the next day.

The phrase is only suitable for gaming chats and has no other use. However, considering there are hundreds of millions of gamers, it’s a valid reference and part of the English lexicon. You can use ‘AFK’ when playing any online game. You can type AFK in upper or lower case characters, and it retains the same meaning.

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