Archive FAQ > Glossary


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.

An example work blurb containing title, creator, recipient, date updated, fandom, rating, warnings, relationships, characters, additional tags, and the work summary, as well as the series it belongs to, the language the work is in, total word count, and the number of chapters and hits.
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 work 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 "Christmas 2015 Secret Santa Fic Exchange!") 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-Author | Co-Creator

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.


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.


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 Anime & Manga, Books & Literature, 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.


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 the OTW's mission statement 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.


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 "Hogwarts", "the characters go on a road trip", or "Alternate Universe - Angels and Demons". 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 Celebrities & Real People as well as Music & Bands.

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 looks only for you when logged in. A work skin changes the way your work looks 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: Kakusei | Fire Emblem: Awakening, 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: Kakusei | Fire Emblem: Awakening, 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 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.