I came across this line in a site:

Can u make sth effective for a sports betting related product?

I can't understand what is meant by sth effective here. I tried to google it but was unable to understand. Can anybody explain to me what is meant by this word? Is it an English word or is it from another language?

3 Answers 3


Sth is a standard abbreviation for something. It is used in some reference books, such as dictionaries, in order to save space. Another common one is sb for somebody.

  • I haven't seen sb, I do, however, see so. for "someone." Just saying.
    – kitukwfyer
    Apr 7, 2011 at 23:15
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    BUT use this only when writing for yourself, not when you expect others to understand you (unless you are writing for a published-on-paper dictionary or such, and thus short of space).
    – GEdgar
    Sep 14, 2013 at 14:25
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    Also short for "sith" when a middle-manager from a galaxy far, far away is trying to motivate low-level employees on the death star. Oct 21, 2015 at 10:10
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    As per the answer from @Jon Hanna, it's not remotely standard at all and sounds completely foreign to a native speaker. For me, this is a kinda shibboleth for someone with English as a secondary language. Feb 15, 2019 at 5:30
  • Can you provide some examples of reference books in which it is used?
    – endolith
    Mar 9, 2019 at 1:47

I think it's short for 'something'.

  • Nice detective work, considering the atrocious use of English in the context.
    – Nico
    Apr 7, 2011 at 8:33

Sth is a specialised abbreviation for something. It is only used in cases like phrase books and other reference books where the premium on space makes considerably heavy abbreviation appropriate.

Compare how a dictionary might use abbreviations like adj. phr., esp. Brit., colloq. and obs. but in normal English we would never use those but the full phrases. It makes sense though because:

  1. Space is at a particular premium in dictionaries, which struggle to be both comprehensive and physically compact.
  2. The context means that at the point where we see e.g. adj. phr. we are expecting a part of speech, where we see colloq. we are expecting a note on usage and so on, so the problem with such heavy abbreviations causing confusion is reduced.
  3. The dictionary will contain a key to the abbreviations it itself uses, further reducing the problem with heavy abbreviations.

Similarly, sth (and sb for somebody) are found in phrase books and vocabularies for non-native speakers. Whether by force of habit, or by confusing the abbreviation listed as for use in that particular context as an abbreviation defined as one used in English, some non-native speakers are led to believe that it is a common abbreviation in English (akin to etc. or i.e.) and so use it, though native speakers do not generally use these abbreviations at all and so find their use jarring at best, and at worse so opaque as to not understand what is meant.

It's an interesting foreignism, because it results not from lack of fluency, the influence of another language, or a hypercorrection in attempt to avoid those (which cause most traits that one will find in non-native use but not in native), but from an artefact of the very guides that are ironically intended to help people learn and use the language.

  • 1
    Very interesting. I've been seeking where non native speakers get this from as I've never seen it before and, as you say, it's a completely unnatural way of abbreviating to a native speaker. However, I have met several Europeans who use it as if it were normal usage and we've been unable trace a source. Have you got any references for where this is used in phrase books for foreigners or similar? Feb 15, 2019 at 5:38
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    @Turkeyphant an example is at dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/… which uses both sb and sth.
    – Jon Hanna
    Feb 15, 2019 at 10:56
  • Weird; seems to only be the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary & Thesaurus that uses it. Feb 16, 2019 at 18:05
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    @Turkeyphant books.google.ie/… and books.google.ie/… are other examples, but not all use it.
    – Jon Hanna
    Feb 17, 2019 at 11:05

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