Glossary FAQ | Archive of Our Own (2024)


On Archive of Our Own (AO3), Abuse can refer to Terms of Service violations and other complaints, or be used as a shorthand for the Policy & Abuse committee, who handle reports of these violations and complaints. You can contact the Policy & Abuse committee via the Report Abuse form.

You can find a link to the Report Abuse form on each page of the Archive in the footer under the Contact Us heading. For more information about what you can report and what is allowed on AO3, please refer to the Contacting the Staff FAQ.

Additional Tag | Freeform Tag

An additional tag, also known as a freeform tag, is a tag that can be added to a work on Archive of Our Own (AO3) to provide information about its contents that doesn't fit into other tag types. You can add any information that you'd like users to know about your work in this field. Refer to What are the different types of tags? for more information.


This acronym stands for the Accessibility, Design, & Technology committee, which coordinates software design and development on behalf of the Organization for Transformative Works (OTW). AD&T focuses on building OTW-Archive, the open-source software package that runs the Archive of Our Own (AO3).


The acronym "AO3" comes from the initials of the English site title Archive of Our Own—an A and three O's.

The Archive of Our Own is a noncommercial and nonprofit central hosting site for transformative fanworks such as fanfiction, with the ability to embed and display externally hosted images, videos, audio files, playlists, and podfic. We hope to expand to directly host more content formats in the future. For more information, check out What kind of fanworks can I post to the Archive? or the About the Archive FAQ.

Archive, The Archive

Refer to AO3.


In general, a blurb is a short publicity notice (as on a book jacket) (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). On Archive of Our Own (AO3), it refers to a collection of information about a work, visually represented by an outlined box, which appears on any page that lists works. This information includes: title and creator, recipient (if any), date posted or updated (whichever is more recent), fandom, rating, warnings, relationships, characters, additional tags, work summary, language, and some statistics, such as word count or number of kudos. Refer to the screenshot below for an example.

Glossary FAQ | Archive of Our Own (1)
Figure 1: A blurb for an example fanwork.

The collection of information at the top of a specific work's page, on a series page, or a skin page may sometimes be referred to as a blurb, though the more accurate term is work, series, or skin meta.


A bookmark is a menu entry or icon on a computer that… serves as a shortcut to a previously viewed location (such as an Internet site) (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). On Archive of Our Own (AO3), a logged-in user can use the bookmark feature to record a work or series to remember or access later, or to rec a work or series to others. Refer to the Bookmarks FAQ for more information.

Canonical Tag

A canonical tag, also referred to as a common tag, is a tag marked as "official" by tag wranglers, according to their guidelines, for a particular fandom, character, relationship, or additional tag concept. Canonical tags are generally the most unambiguous, accessible form of a tag. All other tags referring to the same concept, including spelling and name variations, are linked to it as synonymous tags. Canonical tags will appear on the fandom pages, as suggestions in autocomplete fields, and in the filters in the sidebar when browsing Archive of Our Own (AO3). For example, Kissing is a canonical additional tag. Kisses, all the kissing, and 亲吻 are synonymous tags for Kissing. Searching by any of these synonymous tags will show all results for the canonical tag Kissing. Refer to How do canonical tags work? for more information.


A challenge is an organized activity in which participants agree to perform or produce fan activities or fanworks according to some predetermined criteria. (Fanlore). On Archive of Our Own (AO3), a challenge can be run as a prompt meme or gift exchange.


On the Archive of Our Own (AO3), we use claim to mean two things:

When participating in a prompt meme, you can claim prompts that you want to fill. Refer to How do I claim a prompt? for more information.

You can also claim works using your AO3 account when Open Doors imports fanwork archives that you've posted in. Refer to the Claiming Works After an Automated Open Doors Import tutorial for more information.

Closed Collection

A closed collection on the Archive of Our Own (AO3) is a collection that its owner has closed to new submissions. For example, a collection or challenge with a specific time frame (such as "Secret Santa Fic Exchange 2023") may be closed after the time frame has passed. Refer to What does it mean that a collection is Open or Closed, Moderated or Unmoderated, Unrevealed, or Anonymous? for more information.

Co-Creator | Co-Author

Both co-creator and co-author refer to a creator or author who collaborated with one or more individuals to create a work. Co-Creator and Co-Author are currently used interchangeably, as we move the language of the Archive of Our Own (AO3) away from fanfiction-centric terms.


On Archive of Our Own (AO3), a collection is a group of works and/or bookmarks compiled together under one theme. For example, it could contain all works that have been created for a challenge, all works you posted in a particular year, or all of your bookmarked recs for a specific relationship, character, or fandom.

Collections can be grouped together under a parent collection to form subcollections, and can be Open or Closed, Moderated or Unmoderated, Unrevealed, and/or Anonymous. Refer to What does it mean that a collection is Open or Closed, Moderated or Unmoderated, Unrevealed, or Anonymous? for more information.

Collections can also be used to host Gift Exchanges and Prompt Memes.

For more information, refer to the Collections FAQ.


A comment is a response left on a work in order to give feedback to the creator or co-creator(s). Refer to What are comments? for more information.

Creator's Style

Creator's Style refers to a work skin the creator has applied to a work. Refer to the Skins and Archive Interface FAQ for more information.


A dashboard serves as a home page for users, series, and collections (including prompt memes and gift exchanges) on the Archive of Our Own (AO3).

Your user dashboard is your home page on the Archive, where you can manage all your preferences, pseuds, and creations (works, bookmarks, and series), as well as your Profile and Invitations. When logged in, you can access it by selecting the greeting "Hi, [username]!" and choosing "My Dashboard" from the menu, or by selecting your profile image.

A collection's dashboard is the page you access when you select a collection's hyperlinked name. (Refer to How do I find a specific collection? for a list of places where you can find this.) It contains links to collected works and bookmarks and their associated tags and fandoms, as well as collection settings. If the collection hosts a gift exchange or prompt meme, the dashboard will also contain challenge settings, sign-ups, and other relevant links.

Default Skin

Default skin refers to the default presentation of the Archive of Our Own (AO3) for site visitors and logged-in users who aren't using a customized site skin. Refer to What is a skin? for more information.

Defaulting (and Undefaulting)

In Gift Exchanges, defaulting allows you to withdraw from the exchange as a giver. Your requests will still be available for your assigned giver to fulfill. For other uses of "default" on the Archive Of Our Own (AO3), check out Default Skin and .

Those running a Gift Exchange can also default users (for example, if someone needs to drop out, or hasn't completed their work by the gift exchange's deadline). They can then send defaulted assignments to pinch hitters, who will complete them in the original giver's place.

If you default an assignment, you can't reverse it yourself. However, Gift Exchange owners and moderators can undefault assignments to return them to the person they were last assigned to.

Refer to How do I withdraw from a Gift Exchange?, How do I default a Gift Exchange participant?, and How do I undefault a Gift Exchange participant? in the Gift Exchange FAQ for more details.


DMCA is an acronym for Digital Millennium Copyright Act. For more information on this Act and the Archive of Our Own (AO3)'s policy regarding DMCA claims, please refer to our DMCA Home page.


FAQ is an acronym for Frequently Asked Question(s). The FAQs answer some common user questions about Archive of Our Own (AO3) and can be found by selecting "About" and then "FAQ" on the menu at the top of the page in the default site skin (below the site logo). You can also find a selection of Tutorials in this index.


FPF is an acronym for Fictional Person Fiction (or Fictional People Fiction). This includes fanworks about fictional characters, such as Lara Croft from the video game Tomb Raider, or fictionalized representations of real people, such as Abraham Lincoln in the film Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Fandom categories that are likely to contain FPF on the Archive of Our Own (AO3) include , , and Movies.

For more information, refer to the FPF page on Fanlore.

Gift Exchange

A gift exchange on Archive of Our Own (AO3) is a challenge that matches participants based on their sign-up requests and offers. Participants then create fanworks for the person they are matched with and receive works created for them in return. Refer to the Gift Exchange FAQ for more information.


History is a log of every work you access on the Archive of Our Own (AO3) while logged in. Refer to the History and Mark for Later FAQ for more information.


Hits are the number of times a work has been accessed. Refer to What is a hit? for more information.


A kudos is a digital token left on a work to let creators know the work was enjoyed. Refer to What are kudos? for more information.

Marked for Later

Marked for Later is a subsection of your History. It's an option that allows you to flag a work you've accessed and wish to return to at a later time. Refer to What does the "Mark for Later" button do? for more information.


A metatag is a canonical tag with subtags under it, used to group together semi-related tags by their similarities to make browsing easier. When you filter by a metatag, all works tagged with both the metatag (and its synonyms) and its subtags (and their synonyms) appear. Some metatags link related fandoms or characters, e.g. Star Trek, while others serve as ambiguous tags collecting unrelated terms, e.g. Alternate Universe. In this case, Alternate Universe would include all additional tags which might refer to an Alternate Universe, such as Alternate Universe - Flower Shop or Alternate Universe - Spies & Secret Service, which are otherwise unrelated terms. Refer to the Tags FAQ for more information.

Moderated Collection

A moderated collection on Archive of Our Own (AO3) is a collection where the owner(s) or moderator(s) must approve a submitted work before it appears in the collection. Refer to What does it mean that a collection is Open or Closed, Moderated or Unmoderated, Unrevealed, or Anonymous? for more information.

Orphan Account

The "orphan_account" is the specially created username and default pseud for any orphaned works on the Archive of Our Own (AO3). All orphaned works are permanently transferred to this account. Any comments or replies the creator may have left on the work before orphaning are also transferred to orphan_account. If a user chose to keep a pseud associated with their work while orphaning, all works and comments will appear as PSEUD (ophan_account).

For more information, refer to the Orphaning FAQ.


Orphaning is an alternative to deleting a work completely. Orphaning will permanently separate your account from your work(s), but keeps the work(s) accessible on Archive of Our Own (AO3) for other users and visitors. Refer to the Orphaning FAQ for more information.


OTW is the acronym for the Organization for Transformative Works, the parent organization of the Archive of Our Own (AO3). The OTW is a nonprofit organization established and run by fans, dedicated to the access of fanworks and the preservation of fan culture and history. Refer to the About the OTW page for more information on the OTW, and What We Believe for more information on what the Organization for Transformative Works stands for.

Pinch Hit / Pinch Hitter

A pinch hit, or pinch hitter, also known as a "write-in giver", is a person who is asked to act or serve in place of another (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). On Archive of Our Own (AO3), it's used to refer to people who are assigned to produce a fanwork for a challenge when the person originally assigned doesn't complete that fanwork and is unable to continue participating. Pinch hitters don't have to be signed up for the challenge, but must have an AO3 account. Refer to How do I assign pinch hitters? for more information.


Fanlore defines podfic as an audio recording of fanfic, read aloud by a fan (or several).

We recommend using the Podfic tag when posting podfic on the Archive of Our Own (AO3) so that others can easily find your work. For more help with posting podfic, refer to How do I post audio content, such as a podfic or playlist? in the Posting and Editing FAQ.


On Archive of Our Own (AO3), a prompt is a request submitted to a gift exchange or prompt meme by a participant. Prompts are meant to inspire the creation of another fanwork, and are often given in the form of a written description. These descriptions may be of a setting, a scenario, or a trope, such as "Middle Earth", "the characters are in a band", or "1920s AU". Participants in a gift exchange will have another person assigned to them, and must fulfill one or more of their prompts. Participants in a prompt meme may select one or more prompts to fill by claiming them.

Refer to How do I sign up to participate in a gift exchange?, How do I add prompts to a Prompt Meme?, and How do I claim a prompt? for more information.

Prompt Meme

A prompt meme on Archive of Our Own (AO3) is a challenge wherein participants can submit one or more fanwork prompts that other participants can choose to fill. Refer to the Prompt Meme FAQ for more information.

Pseud & Default Pseud

Pseud is short for pseudonym, or pen name. On Archive of Our Own (AO3), pseuds are optional additional names associated with your account. When you post using a pseud, the pseud appears alongside your username. Your default pseud is the pseud automatically associated with all your works, comments, series, and bookmarks, unless you choose otherwise.

If you haven't selected a different default pseud, your username and default pseud are the same.

For more information about how pseuds work and are used on AO3, refer to the Pseuds FAQ.


Rec is short for recommendation. On Archive of Our Own (AO3), a Rec is a subset of your Bookmarks. Marking a bookmark as a Rec indicates that you are recommending that work to other users. Refer to What is the difference between a bookmark and a Rec (Recommendation)? for more information.


RPF is an acronym for Real Person Fiction (or Real People Fiction). This includes all fanworks about real people, such as celebrities and historical figures. Fandom categories that are likely to contain RPF on the Archive of Our Own (AO3) include as well as .

For more information, refer to the RPF page on Fanlore.


A skin is a customized stylesheet used on the Archive of Our Own (AO3), created using the CSS coding language. There are two types of skins available on the Archive: site skins and work skins. A site skin changes the way the Archive displays only for you when logged in. A work skin changes the way your work displays for other users, but they can turn it off if they want to. Refer to What is a skin? for more information.

Synonymous Tag

A synonymous tag, also known as a synonym or syn, is a tag that shares its meaning with other tags and is attached to a canonical tag. This includes tags that are related concepts, related tags in other languages, spelling variations, or shortened or expanded names. When you select any synonymous tag in a group, the filter will bring up the canonical tag and all its other synonymous tags. For example, Yuri!!! on Ice (Anime) is a canonical tag. ユーリ!!! on ICE, yuri on ice, and yoi - Fandom are all synonyms of that canonical tag, and searching for Yuri!!! On Ice (Anime) will find works tagged with any of these other tags as well. Refer to How do canonical tags work? for more information.


A subtag is a canonical tag underneath a metatag. When you filter by a subtag, you'll be presented with all works tagged with that subtag and its synonymous tags, but won't be presented with works tagged with its metatag (unless they've both been tagged on the work). For example, Fire Emblem Series is a canonical tag. Fire Emblem Heroes, Fire Emblem Engage, and Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones are all subtags of that canonical tag. Searching for works using any of those subtags will only find works tagged with those subtags or their synonymous tags, and not all works under the Fire Emblem Series metatag. However, searching on the Fire Emblem Series metatag will bring up results from all its subtags, including Fire Emblem Heroes, Fire Emblem Engage, and Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones. Refer to Why does my work appear in listings for tags I didn't use? for more information.


A tag is a keyword or phrase that is added to fanworks or bookmarks to provide information about them and make them easier to find. Refer to the Tags FAQ for more information.

Tag Set

Tag sets are tag "bundles" that can be used for running a Prompt Memes or Gift Exchanges, but are set up separately. Tag sets make it possible for challenges to include tags which don't currently exist on the Archive of Our Own (AO3), while also allowing access to existing tags. They can also be used to limit the tags available for use in a challenge to a specific subset, which are either nominated by users or selected by the tag set owners. Refer to the Tag Sets FAQ for more details.

Tag Wrangler

Tag Wranglers are the team of volunteers who organize (or "wrangle") the tags behind the scenes. Refer to How are tags organized? for more information.


ToS is the acronym for Terms of Service. The ToS are the agreement between you and the Organization for Transformative Works (OTW) that governs your use of the Archive of Our Own (AO3). For more information, refer to the Terms of Service page or the ToS FAQ.

Glossary FAQ
        Archive of Our Own (2024)


What is the controversy with the archive of our own? ›

AO3 hosts controversial content including works depicting rape, incest and pedophilia.

What is AO3 slang for? ›

Also, don't forget AO3! Otherwise known as the Archive Of Our Own, a massive fan-created multifandom archive alternative that is well worth checking out!

What is the meaning of a03? ›

The Archive of Our Own ( AO3 ) is a noncommercial and nonprofit central hosting site for transformative fanworks such as fanfiction and, in the future, other transformative works such as fanart, fan videos, and podfic.

Can you download the archive of our own stories? ›

Overview. Easily download a series from Ao3! Archive of our Own is an amazing fanfiction website, and they make it easy for users to download stories so they can read offline.

Is AO3 shutting down in 2024? ›

Don't Panic—AO3 isn't shutting down.

Is Archive of Our Own still banned in China? ›

“Unfortunately, the Archive of Our Own is currently inaccessible in China,” the Organization for Transformative Works, a US non-profit group that operates AO3, said on its Twitter account. “We've investigated, and it is not due to anything on our end.”

What does OTW stand for AO3? ›

The Organization for Transformative Works (OTW) - Archive Of Our Own (AO3) Project.

What does abo stand for in AO3? ›

Omegaverse, also known as A/B/O (an abbreviation for "alpha/beta/omega"), is a subgenre of speculative erotic fiction, and originally a subgenre of erotic slash fan fiction. Its premise is that a dominance hierarchy exists in humans, which are divided into dominant "alphas", neutral "betas", and submissive "omegas".

What does ewe mean in AO3? ›

Initialism of extreme wildfire event. (Harry Potter fandom slang) Epilogue, What Epilogue?; a subgenre of Harry Potter fanfiction which pointedly ignores the epilogue of the final novel.

What does GN mean in AO3? ›

Gender Neutral! Reader - Character. GN! Reader - Character. Age Regression/De-Aging.

What does the 3 mean in AO3? ›

The acronym " AO3 " comes from the initials of the English site title Archive of Our Own—an A and three O's.

What do the tags mean on AO3? ›

On AO3, tags are used to specify Rating, Warnings, Fandoms, Characters, and Relationships. Further information can be added in the Additional Tags section. Quick note: For the love of all the deities you may or may not believe in, do NOT tag one single work with 100 different fandoms, characters, and relationships.

Are Archive books legal? ›

The court decisively ruled that Internet Archive's practice of scanning books and making them freely available on its website is copyright infringement and does not constitute fair use.

Does AO3 have an app? ›

About this app

Explore a world of creativity and imagination with AO3 - the ultimate fanfiction archive on your Android device! Dive into a vast collection of fan-created stories spanning your favorite books, movies, TV shows, anime, and more.

Can you post original fiction on AO3? ›

You can post works on the Archive that don't relate to specific fandoms. For more information, please refer to Can I archive original fiction? in the Terms of Service. You can post these types of works using the "Original Work" fandom tag.

What is the controversy with Archive org? ›

Internet Archive doesn't pay authors for books – it simply takes the books, copies them and distributes them without any permission, and without compensating the authors or publishers who created the books in the first place. To be clear: this lawsuit is about stopping systematic theft.

Is the Archive of Our Own safe to use? ›

While this cannot be guaranteed, children who use AO3 may become used to accessing explicit and violent images and videos without consequence, which can have severe consequences when attempting to access similar material on their own or when encountering similar situations in life.

Why is AO3 banned in Germany? ›

Ao3 was allegedly indexed by Bundesprüfstelle (an organization "responsible for examining and censoring media works suspected to be harmful to young people") for distribution of "child p*rn." German law also makes a difference between child p*rnography (under 14) and youth p*rnography (over 14 but under 18).

Why does AO3 have an underage tag? ›

What do you mean by "underage" in the Archive tags? Underage refers to descriptions or depictions of sexual activity by characters under the age of eighteen (18). In general, we rely on authors to use their judgment about the line between reference and description or depiction.

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