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Pictured below: [color:blue]pwn (blue), [color:red]pwned (red), [color:orange]own3d (orange)
Owned (below: Variations) is a “leetspeak” slang word, derived from the traditional meaning of the verb “own”, as meaning to appropriate or conquer to gain ownership. The term strongly implies domination, severe defeat, and/or humiliation of a rival. For instance, “I owned the network at MIT” indicates that the speaker had cracked the servers and had the same root-level privileges that the legitimate owner of the servers had. It is also now primarily used in the Internet gaming culture to taunt an opponent who has just been soundly defeated (e.g., “You just got pwned!”) and as popular slang, outside of the internet. It is partly synonymous with a high degree of fail, and while sometimes these terms have been used interchangeably, it is more proper to say that someone or something is “fail” if they have been “owned.”
1935-1950s – Chess Rumors
The term “pwn” and the concept of “’owning’ an opponent” intersected at a murky point in history but its’ usage is rumored to have its’ roots in chess.
Alexander Alekhine was a Chess Grandmaster known for his dominating openings by using his pawns to control the crucial center spaces of the board. During his matches, Alekhine was known to drink heavily and spout anti-semetic remarks. There is an infamous match in 1935 against a Dutch master named Euwe, in which Alekhine was believed to be drunk. Before starting the match he said to Euwe in a very broken heavily accented russian voice “I will pawn to your knight” (a common variation of his defense was to box his opponents knights using 2 pawns and his white bishop) which ended up sounding like “Evil pwn you tonight”. Unfortunately for Alehkine, he gave away his game-plan. Euwe was able to take advantage and Alehkine lost the match. Raymond Dennis Keene, a chess grandmaster, columnist, and author posted a comment on chessgames.com refuting this, writing that he had discussed Alekhine with Euwe and that Alekhine was not drunk during the 1935 match. The word pwn has nonetheless purportedly resurfaced periodically in the chess community.
1960s-1980s – Chess vs. Programming
The “p” in “pwned” alteration within the computer community has been believed to have have originated from typing too fast on the standard English QWERTY keyboard, thus missing the “o” and typing “p” instead. It could also be thought to pay homage to early hackers who tampered with phone equipment rather than computers--and “pwn” may simply be following this trend. (e.g., phishing, phreaking)
According to one definition in the UrbanDictionary, the term “pwn” dates back to the 1960s at M.I.T. It was used competitively by programmers working on chess AI. When one out programmed the others he would refer to himself as King and the others as pawns. It started being used on Fido Net across the BBS world before internet went public, although it was used on the internet between university’s at the time.
1990s – Hacking and Gaming
Appearing in published form as early as 1989 (below:variations-‘pwn’), “Pwning” became more prevalent among early 1990s hackers, where its’ usage coincided with that of the term used in the definitions of hacking or cracking. It referred to “rooting” or gaining administrative control over someone else’s computer. An outside party who has “pwned” a system has obtained unauthorized administrative control of it.
The term “Owned” was a later variant which became more common in the late 1990s, as did the more abstract usage referring to any compromised security mechanism. By 1997, “owned" was regularly used in website defacements [re: Spice Girls website,Yahoo.com], and it subsequently spread to gaming circles, where it was used to refer to defeat in a game. For example, if someone makes a particularly good kill shot or wins a fight in a multiplayer video game, they might yell out “owned” to the loser(s), as a manifestation of victory, a taunt, or provocation.
2000s and Beyond
Popularity of the term among teenagers rose in the mid-2000s, where it spread from the Internet written form and gaming contexts to use in spoken language, where it has become part of standard slang.
In 2009, Microsoft described a security vulnerability in ActiveX as leaving Windows XP and Windows 2003 Server users open to a “Browse-And-Get-Owned” attack.
Other variations of the word owned include own3d, 0wn3d and pooned, terms which incorporate elements of “leetspeak”.
The past tense and past participle, pwned, may also be spelled: ownt, pwnt, pwnd, pwn’d pwn3d, poned or powned.
Because it is primarily used in written form only, “pwn” has no single accepted pronunciation. Common pronunciations include “pone”, “pawn”, “puh-own”, and “pwen”.
Examples of today’s popular usage of the “Owned” sentiment:
- The Pwnie Awards are awarded by a group of security researchers, to recognize extreme excellence and incompetence in information security.
- Originating in 2004, Pure Pwnage is an Internet-distributed “mockumentary” series from ROFLMAO Productions. The fictional series purports to chronicle the life and adventures of Jeremy (played by Jarett Cale), a Canadian self-proclaimed “pro gamer”. Eighteen episodes of the series have been released to date.