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What does “NM” mean and how do you use it?

A woman making a hand gesture with two fingers to indicate that something is small.
Jihan Nafiaa Zahri / Shutterstock

Have you ever asked someone what they do and got a short two letter answer in response? We explain what “nm”

; means and how to use it correctly in your texts.

“Not much”

NM means “not much”. It is often used to respond to ‘how are you?’ or “what are you up to?” It’s a very common initialism in texts and social media platforms. It is considered a no-obligation response that must be followed up to lead to an engaged conversation.

Like other internet acronyms, it is usually used in lowercase rather than uppercase. It can also serve as a complete sentence when used to answer a question. NM can also mean “not much” instead of “not much”, but they are interchangeable. Whether you read the letter “n” as “nothing” or “not” is up to you.

NM is also often combined with the acronym HBU (what about you?) As a way to throw the question back to the person asking it.

RELATED: What does “HBU” mean and how do you use it?

The history of NM

NM started in early internet chat rooms and message boards, like most online acronyms. Its first definition in Urban Dictionary dates back to 2002.

It gained popularity when used in Instant Messaging apps, such as AIM or Yahoo. It originated as a quick and ill-considered response to online small talk that would precede real conversations. Here’s an example of a conversation that uses the term:

  • Person A: “How are you?”
  • Person B: “nm. Hbu? “
  • Person A: “nm. “

Today it is quite popular in text messaging apps, such as WhatsApp, iMessage and Viber. It is also used in community chat boxes, such as in Discord or online gaming chats.

RELATED: RIP AIM, the messaging app AOL Never Wanted

Nothing much happens

NM is usually used to indicate that not much is happening or that someone is looking for something interesting to do. NM is very often used by young people who are bored at home.

However, just because you say “nm” doesn’t always mean you have nothing to do. Sometimes nm is used to indicate that things are mostly the same. If someone is asked if something is wrong at work, an answer from nm may indicate that nothing special happened.

Since it is short and has no details, nm does not actually initiate conversations. It is usually used to have a chat with someone before an actual discussion begins.

Indicate availability

A man with a smartphone.
wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock

Another use of NM is to indicate your availability. For example, if you ask someone what they are going to do tomorrow and they respond with “nm”, it could mean they have some free time. This can then be followed by an invitation to a social event.

NM can also be used even if you are not yet available. If someone you want to spend time with asks what you are doing, you could say “nm” even if you are busy with something. This indicates that you are available for any activity they have in mind.

Not much vs. Never Mind

Another definition of nm is ‘never mind’. While this usage was widespread in early IRC chat rooms and messengers, “NVM” is now a more common abbreviation for never mind.

You may of course still run into people who use ‘nm’ to mean ‘let alone’. To find out what use is at play, you can look for clues in the context of the conversation.

RELATED: What does “NVM” mean and how do you use it?

How to use NM

Even when compared to other acronyms, nm is very informal. Hence, it is best to use it only among friends or non-professional institutions. Nor is it often spoken aloud; most people say “not much” or “not much” during personal conversations.

Here are a few examples of how NM can be used in online conversations:

  • “Nm, same old, same old.”
  • NM. And you?”
  • “Nm. Just do homework.”
  • NM. I have to run a few errands in the morning. “

If you want to discover more Internet initialisms, check out our guides on NSFW and ICYDK.

RELATED: What does “ICYDK” mean and how do you use it?

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