​Netspeak on the Internet: What Portuguese and Spanish People Are Searching For

Needless to say, the internet impacts daily language use all over the world. The rise of casual net-speaking in forums and on social media makes Netspeak, both fun and challenging for those looking to learn English as a second language, with some unusual insights coming out of Portugal and Spain in particular.

Internet users in Portugal have looked up the meaning of NSFW (not safe for work) more than 20,000 times this year on Google, which indicates they are a very careful, albeit curious, people – let’s just hope they didn’t come across anything too strange during their research!

In Spain, everyone wants to know what the word “selfie” means. While the action of taking a selfie (a picture you take of yourself) is hardly new, Spanish people’s interest in the word has only grown, with 160,000 ‘selfie searches’ made on Google this year. You can see the results below:



Methodology: The percentage of the population of Spanish and Portuguese speakers who search for English Netspeak is based on one search per person on Google in 2019. This number is multiplied by nine months (data collected between January through September) and divided by the total population.

Any words that were considered NSFW were ignored, as well words where the results could be mixed with other search intents. For instance, “RT” is a TV channel in Spain and Selfie is a popular website in Portugal.

Do you know what these ‘Netspeaks’ mean?

Portuguese and Spanish speakers are also quite interested in the following text lingo. All of those made the top 10 in Portugal and / or Spain:

Swag – often used in the sense sense as ‘bling’: non-essential, but cool items.

Selfie – a photograph that you take of yourself.

DM – direct message (i.e. a private message sent / received online)

TBT – truth be told (or Throwback Thursday - when people share and look back fondly on some of their favorite memories – usually associated with a #)

NSFW – content which would not be appropriate for the work or school environment, usually of a dubious and / or offensive nature.

BAE - before anyone else, usually in relation to someone’s girlfriend or boyfriend

TBH – To be honest

BTW – By the way

FAQ – Frequently asked/answered questions

OMG – Oh my god!

IDK – I don’t know

IRL – In real life

Facepalm – The act of covering your face with your hand because you are annoyed , disappointed or embarrassed about a situation.

N00B – Similar to the term ‘newbie’, someone who is inexperienced and / or incapable.

YOLO – You only live once, usually said before doing something exciting, unhealthy, risky or dangerous.

What is a selfie?

Portuguese and Spanish speakers are interested in the word, “selfie” – no doubt the result of the number of selfies posted on social media sites by users around the globe. In Spain, the definition of this word has been searched over 160.,000 this year!

DM who?

Made popular through Twitter, a DM (direct message) can be sent via many apps these days, such as Facebook, Whatsapp and Instagram. A lot of parents must be trying to figure out what their kids are saying, as this terms has been Googled over 32,000 times in Portugal this year alone!

New words, new meanings

Different generations will always change meanings for words and the influence of the English language will inevitably cross country barriers and become part of the day-to-day vocabulary, even in countries where English is not the first language. In fact, TBH already has a different and totally positive meaning for teenagers using Instagram in America.

By knowing the basics in any language, you can make texting or chat communications less of a puzzle and more of a quest instead. Be sure to review the appendix of English Internet slang online to assist you in the activity.