I have seen many people use the phrase "my bad" in Internet forums. What does it exactly imply and is it a proper English phrase?

  • 4
    FWIW, it is commonly used in American speech, not just on the internet.
    – Daniel
    Nov 28, 2011 at 1:37
  • 3
    This phase sounds awfully silly. Thankfully it is rarely heard outside America.
    – k1eran
    Feb 11, 2016 at 22:54

6 Answers 6


Yes, "my bad" is a proper English phrase. It is an apology; when you say "my bad", you're basically saying, "I admit a mistake" or "my fault, sorry for that". Wiktionary says:

(colloquial) (idiomatic) My fault; mea culpa.

  • Yes, I realize the humvee isn't supposed to be parked in the heirloom flowerbed. My bad.

It also links to this Language Log entry, which provides further insight:

The authoritative discussion of the phrase "my bad!" at this Random House site says it originates in pick-up basketball as a phrase used by young urban players when admitting to an error. It has spread to other domains and is now used widely to mean something like "I admit that I have made a mistake." It was nominated for "word of the year" (not that it's a word, it's clearly a phrase) in 1999, but in fact it was already at least twenty years old by then.

  • 29
    Note that while proper in some sense, this phrase is definitely colloquial (as Wiktionary says). For best results, don't use it in formal contexts.
    – Marthaª
    Nov 19, 2010 at 14:30
  • 9
    Note that "my bad" is an Americanism, but would be understood (through 'cultural' exposure) my most other native English speakers.
    – Benjol
    Nov 19, 2010 at 20:40
  • 1
    I'm from California. I had never heard this expression until I moved (in the late 1980s) to the (US) East Coast. Fwiw. Here it is ubiquitous.
    – Alan
    Dec 11, 2014 at 21:47
  • 3
    "Yes, "my bad" is a proper English phrase." – This is what Americans actually believe. Jun 21, 2017 at 8:50

It's proper English slang. I wouldn't go so far as to say it was proper English.

It will certainly be effective in irking English teachers, haters of textspeak, and other grammar purists!

  • 18
    "Your bad what?"
    – mmyers
    Nov 19, 2010 at 22:16
  • 9
    If you are going to complain about using an adjective as a noun, you better get down the Statue of Liberty with a chisel. "Your tired what? Your hungry what? 'Huddled masses yearning to breath free', that's OK..." Feb 17, 2011 at 22:55
  • 1
    @Malvolio: I think all those adjectives do actually specifically qualify "huddled masses"... they're not just being used in isolation! Feb 17, 2011 at 23:01
  • 6
    @ thesunneversets - mmmm, and "homeless", and "tempest-tost"? It looks to me like a list of six noun phrases. And what about "lonely are the brave"? "The wild and the innocent"? "The fast and the furious"? "Blessed are the meek"? "Afflict the comfortable"? "The quick and the dead"? "The naked and the dead"? "We the living"? "Fear of the unknown"? "The bitter with the sweet"? "The calm before the storm"? "The still of night"? "The young and the restless"? "The old and the sick"? "The lame and the halt"? "My one and only"? "The long and the short of it"? Almost out of characte Feb 18, 2011 at 5:18
  • @Malvolio - I would upvote that comment multiple times if I could. (Obligatory Bob Roberts quote: "I wish there was a way I could vote for you a hundred times." "There is... Just kidding.")
    – MT_Head
    May 26, 2011 at 6:22

To my ear "my bad" is very much an Americanism. Handle with care.


Concrete Gannet is right. "my bad" is very much an Americanism. I had not heard this until recently, and was baffled when I did. I heard it on American television programmes and a computer game. I have not heard any British people use it.

To me, it's like the Americanism "I could care less". It does not actually, make sense. It might be acceptable and even considered as proper English in the USA but, it is not elsewhere. At least not in the UK. It does not make sense because, it is an unfinished sentence.

When I have heard it, my immediate thought was, "your bad what?". Your bad behaviour? Your bad language? Or, just your bad English, which this sentence demonstrates?

  • How does it not make sense? You're approaching it from the wrong direction. It's not "my bad X" it's "X is my bad". Bad here being a noun representing "fault".
    – treeface
    Dec 30, 2016 at 5:17
  • 1
    @treeface your surprising. Jan 26, 2017 at 13:37
  • 1
    @treeface according to your response it is obvious that you do not understand grammar. Bad is an adjective, or as you Americans learn it in schools a property. Bad cannot be a noun.
    – Bogdan
    May 29, 2019 at 0:19
  • 1
    @treeface I undestand your point, but I don't have to agree with it. I always try to "broaden" my knowledge and sometimes my views, and I understand that languages are dynamic. However, because some people that have not the best education and don't understand grammar, introduce bad expressions. I don't feel compelled to accept and used them, especially when there are correct and simple alternatives, in this case "my mistake". Mistake is a noun, whereas "bad" is an adjective and is grossly misused in that expression.
    – Bogdan
    May 30, 2019 at 1:31
  • 1
    It just another example of the tendency of cutting short the expressions because of laziness. A complete form would be "my bad move" or similar. If we are to continue on the same line, we would end up saying "my perfect", "my red", etc. My perfect WHAT? Anyway, From the grammar point of view is incorrect and the fact that many people use it doesn't make it correct. In fact, many people voted Trump, and this fact doesn't make him the best person on the planet. Democracy, whether is in politics or language evolution has its failures!
    – Bogdan
    May 30, 2019 at 1:35

I think it is a short way to apologize: many people are ashamed when they realise they have been wrong about something, so this may be a shorter and faster way to admit that they were wrong and/or to apologize.

  • I sort of agree (or at least this is the best answer I could find). There were plenty of examples but I've never heard "my bad" be used anywhere but by itself. (eg. - Am I right? - No, my bad.) Aug 6, 2016 at 7:55

It's a slang, faux apology. It says, "I was wrong, but I'm too haughty to actually apologize for my error."

  • 8
    I'm not sure I agree. To my ears there's nothing artificial about it, though it's not the kind of thing you'd expect to hear for serious misdemeanors.
    – Benjol
    Nov 19, 2010 at 20:38
  • 4
    No, it's a real apology, said in haste so as to clear the air, but not distract the teammate, so both players could focus. Obviously, like any sincere phrase, it can be said sarcastically or insincerely.
    – Wayne
    May 24, 2011 at 19:54
  • 2
    the phrase has pick-up basketball origins - the fact that a player would even apologize quickly by saying "My Bad" is commendable in itself - normally, if you make a mistake you just run back :) Jul 7, 2011 at 4:50

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