Not Safe For Work: the Meaning of the Phrase “Not Safe For Work”

The phrase “not safe for work” may be a phrase that you hear or see used in everyday conversation or writing. Here you will find the meaning of this phrase and the information about its origin. You will also find examples of this phrase used properly in conversations/statements and some alternative ways you can say this phrase and still convey the same meaning.

Not Safe For Work

Not Safe For Work Meaning

The phrase “not safe for work” is a form of internet slang used as a warning label on electronic communications to let users know that the content inside is not safe to watch, read or look at around children or in the work environment. It is specifically put on content that is sexual or contains some other type of explicit content.

Origin of this phrase

Typically abbreviated NSFW, the phrase “not safe for work” was first used on the Snopes forum after a woman warned users that children use the site and could access the content they were sharing. She recommended that users post a warning so that kids would know not to open content that was not appropriate for them. The acronym NBSFK was then used to mark unsafe content for children. It wasn’t until 2001-2002 that the acronym was shortened to NSFW and that the use of this label became popular in the United States to label questionable content.

“Not Safe For Work” Examples

Examples in Statements

A statement in the local paper after a woman made a fuss for being fired.

  • “I don’t think the company had any right to fire me. I labeled the email in question not safe for work. It is not my fault that people opened it and got caught. They should all be fired. I should get to keep my job.”

A statement made by a celebrity jokingly talking about her stiletto heels on the red carpet.

  • “I mean look at these things. They are super sexy and make my legs and butt look yummy. I need to be labeled as not safe for work.”

Examples in Conversations

A conversation between a boss and his employee.

  • Boss: You cannot open that kind of email in this building. If someone else besides me had seen it, they could claim they were offended and sue for sexual harassment.
  • Employee: I honestly had no clue what I was sent. John typically doesn’t send anything bad and I honestly did not know the NSFW meant it was not safe for work. It won’t happen again.
  • Boss: I am going to let it slide this time since no one else saw it. Make sure it does not happen again.

A conversation between a husband and his wife on her first day on the job.

  • Husband: Is that what you are wearing to work?
  • Wife: Yes. Why? Does it look okay?
  • Husband: You look great! Sexy! Really sexy!
  • Wife: Oh stop it!
  • Husband: So sexy! You should be labeled not safe for work and just stay home with me.

Other Ways to Say “Not Safe For Work”

There are several alternative ways to say “not safe for work” and still convey the same meaning. Some of the alternate ways you could say this phrase include:

  • Not suitable for work
  • Don’t open while at work or around small children
  • Inappropriate for the work environment

Not Safe For Work | Picture


Not Safe For Work