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Have you recently seen a wedding photo on Instagram with a flood of comments calling the couple “OTP”? Here’s what this acronym stands for and how to use it when a combination makes you swoon.

A true matchup

OTP is an acronym that stands for “one true pair” or “one true pairing.” It refers to a specific coupling between two fictional characters that a person or group has a deep affection for. If someone enjoys the relationship between Princess Leia and Han Solo from Star Wars, they might say, “Han Solo and Princess Leia are my OTP.” This signals to other fans of the couple that you support this relationship.

The acronym shares many similarities with “ship,” short for “relationship,” which is another term that refers to pairings between fictional characters. People can use it for any pair of characters that people feel work well together, even if they aren’t necessarily together in actual work. For example, someone might flat out say, “Harry Potter and Hermione Granger are my OTP,” even if these two characters aren’t romantically involved in the books.

Alternative definitions of OTP include “on the phone,” which is used in informal contexts to explain to someone why you were recently unavailable to talk. It is very similar to the slang term AFK or “away from the keyboard.” It can also mean a “one-time password,” a measure used to secure login sessions and online transactions. We’ll discuss one-time passwords in more depth later.

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A history of OTP

Han Solo and Princess Leia in Star Wars
Disney/Lucasfilm Ltd.

OTP emerged on fan websites in the late 1990s and early 2000s. It became especially prominent when fan communities began to form around big fictional properties, like Supernatural and Harry Potter. The first definition of OTP in the Internet slang repository Urban Dictionary dates to September 2003. It says: “a true couple, used in fandoms to express which characters you send”, and provides an example from the TV show The West Wing.

As fan communities began to grow, the use of OTPs became more widespread. A significant factor was the rise of works of fan fiction, which are unauthorized stories written by fans based on an existing fictional property; some fan fiction stories revolved around the “OTP” of a real user or partner.

Since then, the use of OTP has spread outside of fan communities. It’s not uncommon to see fans of a particular celebrity couple use OTPs on social media. You might even see the acronym pop up in the comments of your friend’s engagement announcement on Instagram. People use it widely to refer to a couple that they think is an excellent example of a healthy relationship.

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My OTP and your OTP

The topic of “what is the real OTP” can be a source of animosity between fans of the same franchise. There are many franchises where romantic relationships are contentious and change frequently. That inspires fans to latch onto particular pairings and argue with others on the internet about which OTP is the best.

If you browse long enough on the internet, you might come across some weird OTPs. You will find people pairing up characters that have nothing to do with each other or are outright enemies. You can even find pairs of characters from completely different franchises. For example, someone’s OTP could be Ross from Friends and Hermione Granger from Harry Potter.

You can also use “OTP” jokingly to refer to things you think make a great couple. For example, you could say, “Soccer and drinking beer is my OTP,” if you think these two activities are perfect together.

One-time passwords

Another common definition of OTP is “one time password”. This is a password or authentication code that is valid for a single session or use case. These codes are often used to complete a login two factor authentication or complete a confidential transaction, such as a credit card purchase.

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One-time passwords are usually sent via direct message or with an authenticator app. You may also see these codes called OTAC or a unique authorization code. If your banking app or encrypted messaging service asks you for an OTP, they probably aren’t asking you about your favorite pairing!

How to use OTP

A whole new world scene Aladdin

Before you start calling everything your OTP, don’t forget that this is a very informal acronym. When used in professional contexts, it can easily be confused with a “one time password”, so be careful.

Here are some examples of OTP in action:

  • “My OTP is definitely Aladdin and Jasmine.”
  • “What is your OTP in the Transformers franchise?”
  • “Jessica and Eric are my OTP.”
  • “Do you know what my OTP is? Steak and eggs.»

Did you like learning about OTP? Then you should check out our pieces on other internet slang terms like ELI5 , USEFUL and TTYL . You will be an expert in speaking on the Internet in a very short time.

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