What does “SO” mean, and how do I use it?
Have you seen tweets talking to people about their “SO”? This is probably not the word “then” which is accidentally typed in AllCaps. This is a completely different term.
SO means “important others”. People on the Internet use it to refer to their spouse or partner. For example, one might say, “I asked my SO if she wanted to have lunch.”
It is often used to provide a neutral way of referring to a partner without revealing any specific details about them. When using SO, you do not reveal their name, gender, or the stage of the relationship you are currently in. Your SO could be a boyfriend or girlfriend, or someone you’ve been married to for years.
SO is always typed in capital letters to distinguish it from the word “then”. Sometimes, it includes periods between letters, such as “SO”, to make it clear that it is an acronym. It’s also sometimes spoken in real life contexts, so you may hear some people say, “I’m meeting my SO” when you ask them where they’re going.
The origin of SO
The phrase “important second” has been around for a long time. Its first use is in an article by American psychologist Harry Stack Sullivan, who explored the dynamics of interpersonal relationships.
It was later used online on early Internet message boards and instant messaging apps. Its first definition in the Urban Dictionary is as of November 2001 and reads, “Abbreviation of important others.”
It eventually grew in popularity thanks to chat apps like iMessage and WhatsApp and social media, especially Twitter. Due to the limitations of Twitter’s role, “SO” has become a common way to refer to someone’s partner. In just two letters, it is much shorter than words like “husband” or “spouse” and is widely recognized.
What is “important”?
Most people use SO as a neutral term for everyone you are in a relationship with. For example, when you’re inviting your friends to Game Night on Zoom, you might join the invitation, “Bring your SO!” This means that you are right to bring someone to partner with them, whether they are dating, partnering, or married.
When someone uses SO to refer to their partner, they usually refer to someone with whom they have a long-term relationship. This is true even if the acronym deliberately reduces such details. That is why you will most likely see it being used in short-term relationships rather than in married, engaged or highly committed relationships. Ultimately, what counts as “important” depends on the relationship between the two people.
An alternative use of SO is in a formal context, such as filling out an emergency contact form. These forms can use the “important other” as a catch, rather than asking for the spouse’s name, as a way to add another type of long-term relationship.
In addition to “SO”, other languages are also used that people use in reference to a partner or someone with whom you are currently engaged.
Significant other similarities to the less common Internet language, “DH” or “Dear Husband”. DH became popular on Internet boards in the mid-2000s, where women talked about marriage, motherhood, and family life. It can be used either sarcastically or to soften the blow of stories where she will complain about her husband. It was often accompanied by the nasty terms “DD” and “DS” which stood for “sweet daughter” and “dear son”, respectively.
Other abbreviations used by people in long-term relationships include “FH” and “FW” for “future husband” and “future wife”, respectively. They use it when they talk about the person they are going to marry. The second is “FI”, which is short for fiance. These slag terms are commonly seen on message boards, social media groups and wedding planning forums.
How to use SO
If you want to use SO, change it when talking to someone you are in a relationship with. For example, if you do not want people to know that you are engaged, where you can say “my fianc”, you can say “my SO”. Make sure it’s in all caps too. Otherwise, people will think so.
Here are some examples of SOs in action:
- “My SO got a dog yesterday!”
- “I’m going out tomorrow morning and see my SO in Indianapolis.”
- “What kind of birthday gift should I give if I’m in baseball?”
We hope you’ve learned an easy, concise way to approach your partner! Check out our articles on OTOH, FWIW, and DW if you want to learn more about Internet abbreviations.
Related: What does “FWIW” mean, and how do you use it?