I've seen and heard the word "tnetennba" used, most famously by Moss in Season 4, Episode 2 of the IT Crowd. Here's a short clip with it.

Essentially, Moss was a contestant on a fake episode of the TV show Countdown. In this episode, no definition of the word is given but, when asked, Moss uses the word in a sentence as follows;

Good morning, that’s a nice tnetennba

I am trying to establish whether this is a real word or not, which is difficult since language is always changing. I've found multiple sites stating that the word was made up purely for the show and some others saying that the word itself is nothing more than a mechanism for generating traffic to a website, among others.

Is "tnetennba" a real word, and if so, what does it mean?

  • 4
    What's your definition of a "real word"? Is borogoves a real word?
    – J.R.
    Nov 20, 2014 at 11:48
  • 8
    Thats A Nice Tnetennba gives a good explanation
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 20, 2014 at 11:50
  • 2
    It's an obviously not-real word. That's the joke.
    – Timmmm
    Aug 31, 2020 at 20:23
  • 2
    I would post an answer but I have no desire to enbiggen this comment.
    – Greybeard
    Feb 3, 2022 at 15:25
  • 1
    It is a real word as it was used. It is more specifically a nonce word.
    – ermanen
    Nov 19, 2022 at 10:41

6 Answers 6


I'm afraid it's not a real word, and the inability to find it any dictionary will confirm that.

Richard Ayoade used the 9 letters on the countdown board in a humorous manner as, had it been a real word, it would have won.

The episode in question was not a "real" episode of Countdown - I believe it was an episode of The IT Crowd.

  • 8
    tnetennba: it's been rejected! Nov 20, 2014 at 11:50
  • @MattЭллен the PTB have rejected that entry, but it has a nice definition.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 20, 2014 at 11:52
  • 1
    I believe it originated from a discussion on Twitter, where IT Crowd writer Graham Linehan (@glinner) invited people to make up words, potentially to be used in the show. I don't know which twitter user actually suggested it. May 19, 2016 at 14:02
  • 1
    'I'm afraid it's not a real word, and the inability to find it any dictionary will confirm that' means that the question should be CV'd, not answered. We could have any non-dictionary permutation of letters if this isn't closed. Feb 3, 2022 at 16:37

No, It hasn't been considered a real word so far.

Although you may find the word and its definition in some sites, it can't be found in any mainstream dictionary: Merriam-Webster, Oxford English Dictionary, etc. The moment you find "tnetennba" in such sources, you can affirm it is a real word.

Definition of "tnetennba". Meaning 1: A word whose function is purely to attract traffic to a website. Meaning 2: Someone who looks up words which have been artificially created for the purpose of fiction or comedy.


The entire point of that scene was that it is not a real word, but Moss managed to convince everyone on the show that his arbitrary string of letters was worth some points. That was the joke.


"tnetennba" is a perfectly cromulent word.


This question is based off of the understanding that there is such a thing as a "real" word. Most of the answers assume that a real word means something which has been officially recognized by some credentialed source. I am offering an alternative answer with a different assumption - a real word is one which communicates an idea effectively, regardless of credentials to be a "real" word. Credentialed sources simply document something that has already happened in "reality." I don't know the definition of tnetennba, but if it conveys an idea effectively to a group of people, it is a real word. Examples of words which were recognized by credentialed sources after they had been used in society: muggles squibs prol

  • This answer is nicely put. It can be added that tnetennba is specifically a nonce word.
    – ermanen
    Nov 19, 2022 at 11:01

As others have stated, the word was recently invented by the TV Show "The IT Crowd". That said, a word being newly coined doesn't, in and of itself, disqualify it from being acceptable to use.

In general with English, common usage is correct usage, so would the average English speaker (Choose any locality) understand this word? While the show is popular, I don't think it has the viewership or communities necessary to promulgate this into what we'd typically consider "Real" for a word.

So, for now, it doesn't pass the "real word" smell test, and it would be inadvisable to use it outside of conversations about "The IT Crowd".

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