Noun > Snafu

Noun – Snafu

This word was born in the US military, around 1941. It started out as an acronym, SNAFU, meaning “Situation Normal: All Fouled Up.” (“Fouled” is the clean version!)

So, “snafu” first suggested that “things are going really badly, but that’s normal, and oh well, that’s always how it is.

Today, the meaning is a bit different. A snafu is a mix-up, a mess-up, a mistake, or a state of confusion.

Part of speech:
It’s usually a noun, the countable kind: “They ran into a snafu.”

Other common forms:
Just the plural, “snafus.”

How to use it:
To strike a funny tone, refer to some error, mistake, or messy situation as a snafu.

When you do, you’re implying that the mistake or the resulting mess is funny, excusable, or just a little troubling. (“Snafu” is the wrong word for serious or deadly errors, unless you’re being sarcastic.)

Add an adjective, if you like: “that ongoing snafu,” “the novel’s logistical snafus” (New York Times), “a dinner-table snafu” (The Verge), “an underwear snafu” (Fox News).

“NBC News did suffer a few technical snafus, as the video feed briefly went to black several times over the course of the telecast.”
— Stephen Battaglio, Los Angeles Times, 27 June 2019

“Think of the snafu in the halls, every time they changed classes. It’d take half an hour to get everybody back and forth from one floor to another.”
— H. Beam Piper, Omnilingual, 1957