Lol noob, do you even know where video game terms come from?


Lol noob, you say youre smurfing but I still pwned you with just my mule account. As much as that sentence makes you cringe, the important thing is that you know what it means. The video game culture has been around since only the 80s, but weve already developed quite the lexicon. Our language might not be the most sophisticated, mind you, but theyre our words nonetheless. And as with most words in any contemporary language, these video games terms had to have come from somewhere.

Things like HP, mana, frag, creep score, smurf, noob, and pwn; where did they come from? Were diving into the depths of video game etymology, doing all the heavy lifting and research so you can just sit back and reap the rewards of knowledge. Spoiler warning: the Vietnam war plays a bigger role that youd think.

HP or Health Points

Hit points? Health points? Heart points? Regardless of what the acronym stands for, weve been using the term HP since the inception of health in video games. But where did it come from? What game used it first? Actually–and youll find this with most of the terms on this list–HP predates video games. It all goes back to Dungeons & Dragons.

Zoom in on Dave Arneson, co-creator of D&D, when he was adapting the medieval wargame Chainmail to a fantasy setting (which would ultimately evolve into Dungeons & Dragons). He saw that players attachment was moving from large armies to single characters, forming relationships with these characters instead of just using them as assets on the battlefield. Since players didnt want their heroes to die every time they lost a die roll, Arneson gave these heroes multiple “hit points,” which were then incrementally decreased. When video games were starting to be made, hit points had already become the term du jour, and so it was just straight-up adopted.


Get your dumb Spell Points out of here; everyone knows the true term is mana. Mana has come a long way as a concept, and video games are just another stepping stone on that journey. Manas origins date aaaaaaaaaaaaall the way back to biblical days (then it was called manna), and was consumed by Israelites on their quest to find the holy land. So, literally, mana was always understood as a replenishing of the soul and body.

How, then, did it get from the Bible to video games? Best guesses are through the fantasy writer Larry Niven, who in 1969 used the word “mana” as we know it today in his popular short story Not Long Before the End. This story inspired novels and tabletop board games, even to the extent that Terry Pratchett adopted the term in his Discworld series. From tabletops to video games, mana has had the same movement as HP.


This one is dark. For those uninitiated, fragging is a slang term used mostly in the FPS community to mean that a player has been killed. You get fragged, you frag someone, they respawn, and youre good to go. We know that there are grenade types called frag grenades–short for fragmentation grenades. Is that where the term comes from? Kind of, but its a lot more involved than that.

The term originated during the Vietnam War, and was used to describe the act of murdering a member of your own military. And not just any member of your own military–the commander of a fighting squadron. Vietnam was a tragic time of confusing ideals, and conflicting thoughts doing the right thing led to copious in-fighting within military units. When one ideal became too oppressive, some soldiers decided to take justice into their own hands. Bullets could be traced easily back to a registered weapon, and hand-to-hand left too much evidence–so frag grenades were an all-too-common tool. It was an easy “accident”–someone mistakenly pulled a pin; an enemy soldier threw a grenade back–and the method was virtually untraceable.


The classic video game term, as old as time itself. Noob this, noob that, everyone’s a noob. Youve been playing the game for years, but had one bad match? Noob. Kill yourself. GG no RE. Not only does it technically mean that youre a new player, but the term carries some derogatory connotations. Calling someone a noob usually means you think theyre as skilled as a totally new player…aka they suck. The term actually began as newbie and, just like the term fragging, has ties to the Vietnam War.

Newbie was used to refer to a new member of a unit, and the second someone was pegged as a newbie, all kinds of initiation hell was thrust upon them. But! It goes deeper! Where did soldiers get the term newbie from? Just like noob evolved from newbie, newbie evolved from the term newie, which was slang for the new boy (or new blood) in British school systems in the early 20th century. From British school systems, to war, then video games, the term noob does in fact have a fascinating evolution. Language!


CS, or Creep Score, is a term usually confined to the MOBA scene, which itself stands for Multiplayer Online Battle Arena. MOBA has become a dominant genre in video games, encompassing games like Dota, LoL, HoN, and HoTS. In MOBAs, every couple of seconds, fodder in the form of weak monsters gets released for players to feast on and gain experience from. No matter if those monsters are called creeps or baddies or minions, everyone knows that the amount of them you kill equates to your creep score.

Look back to the old days of the MOBA, when the genre (Defense of the Ancients, specifically) was just a budding mod on the servers of Warcraft 3. In DotA, the NPC cannon fodder was called a creep; therefore, your creep score was how many of them you killed. The minds behind that singular mod have gone off to create most (if not all) of the successful modern-day MOBAs, and many of their fans have followed. The terminology of calling something a creep has stuck, reminding MOBA players of their community-made roots.


Not reserved just for those little blue dudes that got a tragically awful live-action movie, the term Smurf also has a comfy place in the video game world. In the world of alt (alternate) and mule (strictly item storage) accounts or characters, smurfs have their own use.Smurfing is a way for high-level players to secretly slip into more noob-like environments and trounce everyone there. Its also used to get around certain constraints that the higher level account has to deal with. Where else do we see the term smurfing? Why, in banking!

Smurfing is a term used to describe a large money holder opening up an account and slipping small increments of money into it. The money amounts are small enough to slip past certain constraints that large money transactions have to abide by, and therefore can be deposited secretly to conceal the ultimate purpose for which the money will be used. Hmm, creating a lower value account to slip resources into, all while concealing its true purpose? Sounds like gaming and banking have a common ancestor.

Pwned (aka leet speak)

It doesnt take an etymological genius to figure out where pwned comes from. You destroy someone, you own them, but in your typing fervor, your ring finger slips onto the P key. Suddenly you go from owning them to pwning them. Whatever, no big deal, youve still won. Whats more interesting is that this is classified as leet (L33T) speak, and what leet speak actually stands for.

The original aim of leet speak–surfacing around the 1980s–was to circumvent constricting language barriers. Cant curse someone out? Well STFU then. But then leet speak evolved into a sort of Creole language for gamers, meaning that what was once used as an alternate form of regular English became the correct thing to say. AFK BRB…NM GTG cya–it all makes perfect sense to us, because we grew up with this language. This vocabulary that gamers use is actually so interesting that language professors around the world are still studying us to this day. Were using an emerging language, and its not often one gets to study a language thats under 40 years old!

GG no RE

Its cool to look at all the terms we use every day and see that they have amazing roots: biblical terms, military speak, 1850s British school system slang, and even banking jargon. So the next time you LFP in FFXIV as a lv65WM, take a second to think about why youre saying that. Or dont, and just go kick ass, knowing that somewhere theres a Harvard professor pouring over your every word.

And if want to do some more knowledge slam dunks, check out The strangest misuses of religion in video games and Games that found a surprise audience you wouldn’t expect

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