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What Does “OOC” Mean, and How Do You Use It?

Vann Vicente

Maybe you’ve come across the initialism “OOC” in a debate or an IMDb review. OOC can mean many different things online, but if you’re obsessed with movies or TV shows, one of them may stick out.

Out of Character (or Context)

OOC can mean a few things, but most commonly, it means “out of character.” To a lesser extent, it can also mean “out of context.” Depending on which part of the internet you’re browsing in, one of them is more likely to be used than the other.

OOC as “out of character” often describes a fictional character behaving in an unusual way that is contradictory to the way they’ve been written. This usage is common in boards and communities that discuss books, movies, tv, and video games. For example, if someone from your favorite show suddenly turns into a villain when they’ve stayed a hero for most of the show, you might say, “Her final actions were completely OOC.”

On the other hand, OOC as “out of context” refers to a post or piece of information taken out of its original context. For example, if you see a screenshot that says, “Don’t get pizza,” you might be bothered by the controversial thought. However, if the context is that this person was talking about potential first-date ideas, then the sentence makes a little more sense. You’d then describe the screenshot as “OOC.”

The History of OOC

Dungeons and Dragons game set up with dice
CiEll/Shuttertstock.com

OOC has been around for a long time. Its first entry in Urban Dictionary from 2003 hints at one of its earliest uses – as a way to drop out of character in roleplaying games like Dungeons and Dragons. In these games, players stay in character as their roles, so they might say, “I’m going OOC, just gotta go to the bathroom,” to tell others that they want to speak outside of the context of the game.

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Since then, OOC has become a staple of internet conversations centering around fictional media. The amount of discourse and dedicated communities surrounding each book franchise and video game series has grown exponentially. Many fans are very keen on making sure that the character development of a series favorite makes sense. Therefore, when a character is acting OOC, it immediately becomes a point of discussion among fans.

Other OOCs

Besides “out of character” and “out of context,” there are a few other, less common definitions for OOC.

One of them is “out of curiosity.” This is used to ask someone about a particular topic you’d like to know more about. For example, you might say, “OOC, where did you buy your tablecloth from?” While the phrase is prevalent in spoken and written English, it is less common as an acronym.

Another is “out of control,” which describes someone or something that has gotten out of hand. For example, you might call someone “OOC” if they’ve been going on a crazy online shopping spree.

Lastly, there’s “out of cash.” This is an accounting-related term that describes a business without the needed cash flow to operate.

Crazy Characters

Since the popularity of “out of character” coincides with a rise in discussion about fictional universes, one of the most popular uses of OOC is in the fanfiction community. Fanfiction is a form of writing that involves authors using existing characters, settings, and intellectual properties to create their own stories.

For example, someone might write a fanfiction of Harry Potter where all the characters are in their early 30s, or fanfiction of the Avengers set in an alternate universe where all the heroes live on another planet. Popular fanfiction websites like Wattpad and Archive Of Our Own have millions of stories and readers.

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In fanfiction, “OOC” is often used to warn potential readers that characters will not act as they’ve generally been written or according to the “canon” of the story. For example, a movie character that is well known for being kind and friendly will be a cold-hearted villain in this particular tale. Sometimes, characters being OOC is also a criticism levied at fanfiction authors for straying too far from the source material.

How to Use OOC

If you’re using OOC to describe someone that’s “out of character,” make sure to explain what it is about the way they’re acting that seems out of the ordinary. It can refer to both fictional characters and real people. Here are a few examples of the acronym in action:

  • “She’s acting completely OOC in this new episode.”
  • “Is it just me, or is Jeremy acting a bit OOC?”
  • “I didn’t bother buying the newest book. I heard the villain is super OOC in it.”

Are you interested in learning more about internet terms? Check out our articles on ELI5, BTW, and IMO.

RELATED: What Do “IMO” and “IMHO” Mean, and How Do You Use Them?

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