As a person of the internet, you’re no doubt familiar with using acronyms online. But what about the use of letter combinations that don’t actually stand for anything? “Uwu” is a good example of this.
It's difficult to define uwu, as it doesn't have an exact meaning in the way that "LOL" means "laugh out loud." So what does it mean exactly?
The meaning behind 'uwu'
As the image above illustrates perfectly, uwu (also stylized as "UwU" or referred to as "uwu face") represents the shape of a happy face. It's also known as "happy anime face." The expression can be interpreted as being happy in a particularly smug way.
Uwu is often used in Japanese and Korean online culture, typically in response to something especially cute, or kawaii.
How do you pronounce uwu?
You don't, really. Uwu is more of an online thing, so it's rare you would use it in conversation. But if you really wanted to use it, "oooo-uuuh" would be the best approximation.
Usage in furry fandom
The uwu emoticon is especially popular among furries, as the "w" can be seen to resemble an animal's nose. Furries are people fascinated by anthropomorphic animals, and they often dress like (and have sex as) them.
Mark Hamill using the emoticon
In 2018, a fan persuaded Mark Hamill to tweet "uwu," which he did, after clarifying the meaning wasn't something that would "prank" him.
Critics of uwu—and there are many who find the emoticon annoying—were appalled.
The emoticon became controversial when a Tumblr user in 2013 said that predators might use "uwu" and similar "cute" internet lingo to get closer to teenage girls. This discourse around the uses of the emoticon become known as "uwu culture," according to Know Your Meme, for which there is now a tag on Tumblr.
"The exact same arguments are still underway here five years later, only now it’s 'softboys,'" a Tumblr user wrote in a post in February of 2018. "People point out that hey, there’s a lot of creepy grown-ass men who deliberately paint themselves as smol soft gentle boys so they can be as creepy as they want without consequence and, well, you know how that cookie crumbled."
How is 'owo' different?
There is also "owo," or "OwO." This has a different meaning than uwu. While owo still represents a face, it's an evolution of "o.o," the emoticon used to convey a slightly surprised blank stare.
Owo is often followed by "What's this?" when people discover or share content that startles, surprises, or intrigues them. Uwu and owo can coexist peacefully on the internet—but it's good to have a firm grasp on both so you can properly express yourself online.