What Does “TBF” Mean, and How Do You Use It?

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Vann Vicente has been a technology writer for four years, with a focus on explainers geared towards average consumers. He also works as a digital marketer for a regional e-commerce website. He’s invested in internet culture, social media, and how people interact with the web. Read more…
Did you see someone say “TBF” in an enlightening internet debate? No, TBF doesn’t mean “total brain fart,” although you’d be forgiven for having one if you don’t recognize this initialism. Here’s what TBF means and how to use it.
TBF means “to be fair.” People use it to introduce another viewpoint or perspective into an internet discussion, particularly one that you feel hasn’t been properly evaluated. It can also refer to specific people or ideas that are lacking in consideration. TBF often comes before evidence that may make a thread a more balanced conversation.
TBF is often found in arguments or lively discussions online. For example, if several people are debating about the validity of pineapple on pizza and nearly everyone is against it, one user might chime in by saying, “TBF, pineapple is a pretty delicious fruit.”
Depending on the context it’s used in, another possible definition of TBF is “to be frank,” which is synonymous with “to be honest.” TBF should not be confused with TBTF, which means “too big to fail,” a theory in the finance world that believes that some corporations are too big to have a spectacular failure.
The actual phrase “to be fair” has been around in the English language for a long time before it was turned into an initialism. It was shortened in the 1990s and 2000s when the internet became a popular place for conversations of all kinds. TBF was useful in internet chatrooms, where messages would move fast, and users needed to use shortcuts to get their points across.
The first definition for TBF on Urban Dictionary was created in 2005, and it reads, “to be fair.” It has since become a common term all around the internet, especially in lively message boards like Reddit and group messaging apps like Discord.
One common way to use “TBF” is to explain a person or a group of peoples’ reasoning for a specific action. For example, if a judge for a speed art competition remarks that all of the entries look unfinished, another judge might point out, “TBF, they only had 30 minutes to make these. It only makes sense that they’re a bit unfinished.”
You can even say TBF to someone else to show that you empathize with their situation or point of view. For example, if a friend is distressed about failing an exam, you might say, “TBF to you, you barely had any time to study.” This tells them that you understand where they’re coming from. Some people even say “TBF” to refer to themselves when they feel left out.
In a lot of ways, TBF is very similar to “to be honest” or TBH. Besides sharing two letters, they both often precede a controversial or unpopular opinion. However, they are used in very different circumstances. TBF is often used to support or consider an alternative viewpoint, while TBH is often used to provide a strong, often negative opinion of something.
RELATED: What Does “TBH” Mean, and How Do You Use It?
For example, if a group of people is discussing which console between the Playstation and Xbox is better, one user might say, “TBF to the Playstation, it has many exclusives that the Xbox doesn’t have.” On the other hand, someone else might say, “TBH, those exclusives on the Playstation aren’t even good.’
If you want to use TBF, substitute it for when you would say, “to be fair.” The initialism can be used in both the uppercase “TBF” and lowercase “tbf.”
Here are few ways you can put TBF in your next post:
If you want to learn about other internet slang words, check out our guides on RN, TMI, and W/E. You’ll be an internet expert in no time.
RELATED: What Does “TMI” Mean, and How Do You Use It?
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