What Does SMH Stand For? The Slang Term Explained

Updated March 18, 2022
Frustrated businesswoman using a laptop with SMH definition
    Frustrated businesswoman using a laptop with SMH definition
    Woman: LaylaBird / E+ / Getty Images / Background: Tolchik / iStock / Getty Images Plus
    Used under Getty Images license

Newsflash: People say dumb things on the internet. Whether you’ve just read a load of ignorant comments on your local newspaper website or bombastic posts from a rising influencer, you may find yourself utterly speechless (or typeless). When all you can do is shake your head at the ridiculousness you’ve just witnessed, just use a quick SMH.

SMH: Shaking My Head

Commonly found on message boards and social media, and perhaps texts with people who are younger than you, SMH (or smh) means “shaking my head” and is the perfect response to express condescending displeasure. It can stand alone as a comment, or you can follow it up with an explanation about why your head is shaking.

SMH replaces comments such as:

  • I’m speechless at what you just said

  • words fail me

  • I can’t even

  • there are no words

  • facepalm

  • -_- (a cringe emoticon)

When you see SMH after something confusing, the writer may mean “Scratching My Head” to indicate confusion. It can also stand for “Sydney Morning Herald” and “Society for Military History,” but those meanings are less likely than “what you said was really unfortunate.”

Where It Started

People have been shaking their heads with disbelief at others’ ignorance ever since the first humans used tools (“SMH, I can’t believe you want to use the wheel for that.”) But the slang term SMH started to become popular online around 2009. Leave it to Redditors and online trolls to come up with such a succinct term for such a universal feeling.

When to ‘SMH’ at Someone

So when’s the best time to drop an SMH into your group chat? Try it out in these situations:

  • your know-it-all sibling starts a long text with “Well, actually”

  • a relative has gone full conspiracy theory on your social media feed

  • someone uses racist or sexist terms to make an (invalid) point online

  • a friend posts a video of themselves doing something embarrassing

  • your significant other cancels a date yet again

  • you find out that your friend’s significant other is cheating (maybe that’s why they keep canceling dates)

  • a dating app match slips into your DMs with a lame pickup line

  • someone gives bad advice in a field where they are most definitely not an expert

  • your parent posts their last search engine entry in the wrong field, and now their social media post says “good pizza places near me”

  • your parent posts an inflammatory (and ill-informed) comment on your friend’s page

  • pretty much anything your parent posts on social media


Other Versions of SMH

Sometimes SMH just isn’t enough. In those cases, you can get more specific (or emphatic) with:

  • SMBH - Shaking My Bald Head

  • SMHF - Shaking My Head Furiously

  • SMHO - Shaking My Head Off (being so embarrassed that your head comes right off)

  • SMDH - Shaking My Damn Head

  • SMFH - Shaking My F****** Head

  • SMUH - Shaking My Unicorn Head (when you feel superior to the other person)

  • SMHAM - Shaking My Head at Myself

  • SMHIDB - Shaking My Head In Disbelief

When SMH Isn’t Enough

Still need that extra oomph in your response? Try out these alternatives to SMH:

  • KMHS - Keeping My Head Still (it’s so embarrassing that you can’t even SMH)

  • NMH - Nodding My Head (you agree with someone)

  • NMHLY - Nodding My Head Like Yeah (Miley Cyrus reference)

  • SMJ - So Much Judgment

  • DMJ - Dropping My Jaw (extreme SMH)

  • CMA - Crossing My Arms


Avoid Future SMH Moments

As satisfying as SMH is to leave in a comment, it’s mortifying to receive in response. Keep the SMH away by mastering these online terms: