What Does TBH Mean and How to Use it?

To be honest

Stay true to your words and your intentions!

Honesty is a preachy subject. It advocates so much but actually does so little, that we actually need to have an emphasizing expression to convey we’re practicing the virtue! TBH is an acronymic slang that has been around for a while. We’ve been referring to honesty as the best practice while actively using expressions like TBH for over 30 years!

TBH is a prior notice for verbatim that follows. It stresses that the conversation succeeding a ‘TBH’ or ‘To Be Honest’ is based on objective or subjective facts. Now, this may be a little sus because it brings up the question that without this expression is anything ever honest? Are we just serial liars, then? Well, yes, and no. We speak for ourselves.

As universally preachy as honesty is, it is that much subjective. One person’s TBH usage will differ from another’s, on different levels. TBH, may not seem like it, but it has many more sides to it than just plain honesty. So, when someone does use TBH, it’s fair to give them the benefit of the doubt of aspects other than honesty that are attached to TBH!

TBH and the Necessity of Emphasized Honesty

Slang enthusiasts (and simply people who stay current and alive with popular culture) have been using TBH since the early 1990s. The slang has been a big part of many generational vocal expressions, and now, it’s a free-flowing figure of speech. However, it became a “thing” in colloquial speech only in the 2010s. It was simply around until then.

TBH seems to have started with the mission to accentuate honesty that may make its way, barge, or spill out of someone’s vulnerable mental (or vocal) state. TBH, previously has two major possibilities — it is either the result of personal relationship with the subject or subject matter or it’s a general, factual understanding of something or someone.

‘To Be Honest’ would precede or succeed a statement that is based on general, stone-cold truth or a bunch of subjective aspects like opinions, suggestions, ideas, theories, beliefs, values, etc. Though there are two possibilities, TBH is typically used to express the latter — and ideally appears before or after personal expression. However, the latest aka GenZ manner of using TBH is slightly diverse and undoubtedly niche.


GenZ Usage of TBH

Teenage audiences across multiple social media platforms use TBH with a twist. Alongside being honest, TBH is true to one of the “honest parts” of sincerity — compliments and opinions. Most times, these elements carry unspoken and complete honesty. At least that’s what they’re thought to be.

When we compliment someone — we’re essentially referring to something nice. We’d imagine no one to lie about this, since it’s a subjective take on a subjective matter. But, turns out! Compliments cannot always be trusted! The same goes for opinions. They are entitlements — but, they’re not always honest. Opinions too have layers. This additionally dives into the fact that maybe, we may not be all that honest after all. Even when the format of speech calls for it! But, that’s a story for another time.

For now, the GenZ way of using TBH. Teens on social media today, apply TBH as complimentary slang (so to speak). TBH, in this context, means there’s a compliment or an honest opinion that’s to come. However, that compliment/opinion could take a genuine and feel-good turn or be a purposeful insult that is given (and expected to be received as well) with a grain or a shaker of salt.

This is a very niche usage of TBH — but is nevertheless, the latest update on the slang. However, To Be Honest, and TBH are generally used while sharing something from an honest POV, one that is backed by emotion or education. Compliments and opinions don’t limit the usage of TBH amongst teenage audiences! There’s another and not to mention, a new angle to the acronym.

To Be Heard – The Short-Lived Version

Did you know that TBH also expanded to ‘To Be Heard’ at some point? Alongside using TBH as a symbol for a compliment/opinion that’s given or asked for, TBH also had this unique makeover amongst teens. If To Be Heard were to overlap with To Be Honest for TBH, then, it is promised that we are being honest while being heard.

To Be Heard may seem and sound like an expansion that is a little out of place for an acronym like TBH, but it was around for a while. So, this version of TBH works similarly to To Be Honest. It pops up before or after a sentence that was based on personal inclinations or facts and the acronym conveys that the speaker/sender spoke/texted the statement to be heard. Make sense. But not as much.

If To Be Heard were to stick around, it wouldn’t and couldn’t work as well as To Be Honest. This tangent of TBH would need to be used as ‘slang’ and not as a fluent expression that ‘To Be Honest’ has become. TBH (To Be Heard) would also need to precede (and not succeed) an objective or subjective statement since it stresses the fact that one needs to be heard. This TBH expansion would overall take a confusing turn on the user’s end.

Besides, ‘To Be Heard’ further pushes a speaker below the fundamental minimum that everyone has the right to speak and the right to be heard. So To Be Heard becomes redundant and more so states the fact that the speaker wasn’t priorly heard. Probably why To Be Heard didn’t work out or there may be a more obvious reason behind it. Nevertheless, this version of TBH is no longer in active use.


How to Use TBH

To be honest, how many different ways could you possibly use the acronym or the expansion? There’s only one line of thought and speech, and that’s honesty. But, as we introduced, TBH has many sides to it. In fact, when we use TBH in text or speech, we are using the acronymic slang in so many different ways without knowing or realizing how multi-faceted it is!

Stating/Spitting Facts

This is the more mainstream and direct way of using TBH or at least, that’s how most users think it ought to be applied. When we speak of honesty, the immediate synonym is facts. That’s as honest as anything could get. Facts are the ultimate form of truth. So, if you’re stating objective or subjective facts, you could use TBH.

  • Nah, man. She doesn’t like all that fancy shizz, tbh.
  • TBH, that’s no where close to what the Bill is actually about.

Providing Personal Approach

We’re all driven by our own ideologies, belief systems, values, and opinions that sometimes, we just find the need to put it out there. It’s not always taken in good humor (depending on the nature of the personal approach), but it’s worth the try.

This bit of information may or may not be backed by verifiable facts, but you can still use TBH. You can also apply TBH while honestly replying, reacting, or responding to something or someone.

  • Tbh, I think you can pull off that look.
  • I don’t understand any of this, tbh.
  • That was SO petty of them. Tbh, I didn’t like them from the start, anyway.
  • TBH, you need to start believing in yourself! You cannot land a job without that.

Voicing a Secret

While communicating on the surface level, we’re not always honest about things and sometimes, even with ourselves. It takes a certain level of trust and comfortability to begin speaking from a raw, unfiltered place. But when you do, you can use TBH. You could convey a secret that could be an opinion, fact, assumption, anything that may or may not have been expected from you with ‘tbh’.

  • Can I tell you something? Tbh, I’ve low-key had a crush on you since the time we started talking.
  • Tbh, my family does not approve of his style. They just go with it (as they should. SMH)
  • That band that I condemn? They’re my guilty pleasure at times, tbh.
  • TBH. I wasn’t ready for any of it!

Complimenting (the GenZ use-case)

The GenZ way of using TBH doesn’t always have to be compliments — they can also be more along the lines of opinions, honest, sometimes brutal, and plain opinions on someone or something. This way of using TBH may still be alive amongst teenagers, but they don’t account for the mainstream way of using it, although both do meet somewhere.

Instead of using TBH as an expression of truthfulness, it has simply taken form, as a symbol of that same truthfulness (in concentration or dilution). If you want to join the teen usage of tbh, you could exchange a favor for a TBH (a compliment or an honest opinion on the person who does the favor — or anything/anything else). You could broaden out this use-case of the term and apply it to other things as well.

  • Tbh on the newly elected school president?
  • You tell me this one thing and I swear, I’ll give you all the tbh you need.
  • TBH time! Comment ‘Hi’ on my latest post for a tbh.

Conclusion

TBH may put us in the spot given the nature of the acronym. Though it doesn’t infer that we aren’t honest without the slang, it does imply that we do get honest and a lot more than that when we use it.

TBH is not just about honesty — the initialism turned expression goes beyond everyday layers and filters of communication. It could surface flattery, insults, offense, or even opinions that may or may not be very easy to digest. But, that’s the whole point of TBH! It’s a lot like ‘no offense’. You’re on the safer side!