What Does SMH Mean? A Simple Guide To The Slang Term Everyone's Using

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woman smh

We live in an age of acronyms, and for good reason: most of our communication is text-based. As such, we look for the quickest and most concise way to communicate information: to convey thoughts and feelings with just a few characters.

But if you are not a teen or living with a teen, you may struggle to keep up with the ever-evolving lingo. The good news is that you are not alone. (I’m 34 and a “trend” writer and I can barely stay on top of it all.)

But today, I am going to break down one of the most common acronyms, SMH.

So, what does SMH mean?

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SMH stands for “shaking my head.”

It is used to express general disapproval, exasperation, and frustration. It is used anytime someone says or does something you do not approve of.

According to Urban Dictionary, it is “used when someone finds[/does] something so stupid no words can do it justice."

You can find a more "official" definition of SMH through Merriam-Webster, who defines SMH as an acronym for shaking my head "used to impart a sense of bemused incredulity."

While Merriam-Webster has yet to actually add SMH to the dictionary, it notes that the acronym is one of the dictionary's "words to watch."

Unlike other common acronyms, the origins of SMH are unclear; however, according to Oxford Dictionary, the phrase was coined sometime in the early 21st century, with entries on Urban Dictionary dating back to 2004.

These days, the acronym is a staple in text and on social media sites like Reddit and Twitter and in the comment sections of Instagram and TikTok.

SMH is often confused with "smack my head."

Since the letters and even meaning behind SMH are fairly ambiguous, debates have sprung up about what exactly the term means. One of the most common misconceptions is that SMH stands for "smack my head," a definition that many Reddit threads have debunked.


Side note: SMH can also be used to mean “stupid minded humans” or “so much hate.”

While the SMH meaning is the base form of “shaking my head,” sometimes individuals choose to use a more expressive acronym.

Common variations include SMDH or SMFH.

Which mean, respectively, “shaking my damn head” and “shaking my f***ing head.”

RME and facepalm are often used interchangeably with SMH.

The feeling behind SMH can also be found in the acronym RME, which stands for "rolling my eyes," and the simple word "facepalm," often accentuated between asterisks to indicate that the person using the word is actively putting their palm to their face in exasperation.

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That said, regardless of which variation you use, there are many ways to use SMH, including these examples:

1. Did you see what Becky was wearing? SMDH.

I don’t mean to be critical, but sometimes flesh-toned leggings aren’t the best choice.

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2. My mom is singing Drake. SMH.

No mom, no. Just stop.

3. Can you believe John fell asleep during Avengers Endgame? SMH.

Endgame is a loud, hyped, and action-packed movie, so how John fell asleep is mind boggling — and yet, here we are.

4. This week has been too damn much. SMH.

Because sometimes the only way to describe the insanity of life is with a simple gesture.

5. Lost my phone last night and now I’m just SMH.

I’m cursing too but...

6. Kids these days don’t know what good music is. Seriously SMH.

Yeah, I’m dating myself here but no, I’m not ashamed.

7. And finally, just "SMH."

Because yes, sometimes this acronym is best when it stands alone.

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Nicole Lane is a wife, mother, writer, and regular contributor for YourTango. She is a staunch defender of women's rights, she believes firmly in equality and parity, and she is an advocate for women's health, mental health, and sexuality.

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