In computer security, the initialism or three letter acronym "DOS" often stands for "Denial of Service", as in a "DOS attack".

Sometimes it is used as a verb: "One hacker says to the other 'I will DOS you' "

Q: how would you spell the past tense of "DOS" used as a verb?

  • "He dossed me"
  • "He DOSed me"
  • "He DOSsed me"
  • "He DOS-ed me"
  • "He DOS-sed me"

(I suppose that's spelling, capitalization and hyphenation, not just spelling.)

For that matter, how would you recommend writing the present tense of the verb, or other tenses?

  • "I will DOS you"
  • "I will D.O.S. you"
  • "I will dos you"
  • "I will doss you"

Unfortunately, "He DOSed me" is interpreted by many tools as referring to the past tense of "dose", as in "The doctor dosed me with penicillin". Such tools include spelling checkers, grammar checkers, and, most annoying to me, screen readers.

Also, if you want to put this in the title of a book or chapter, where the title is converted to uppercase, it becomes "HE DOSED ME", and is hence indistinguishable from the medical usage.

The explicit acronym D.O.S. is not appropriate, because not everybody spells out the letters. Somebody talking out loud might say "He dee oh essed me", or "He dossed me" - writing in a pseudo-phonetic style.

(Sorry, I am not fluent in IPA. I do not know of quick and easy tools to convert normal writing or even the pseudo-phonetic spelling I used above to IPA.)

"DDOS", as in "Distributed Denial of Service", is also common. Perhaps more common than "DOS". Often pronounced "dee doss". However I want to talk about non-distributed denial of service attacks, such as micro architectural denial of service attacks in a single computer.

"DOS" (Denial of Service) is sometimes spelled "DoS", perhaps to distinguish it from "DOS", a Disk Operating System. Echoing the: title case convention "Denial of Service".

Does this help? Consider

  • "He DoSed me"
  • "I will DoS you"

I suppose the CamelCase acronym emphasizes the "dee oh ess" pronunciation. It doesn't help in all uppercase. But it obscures the "doss" translation which is in my experience more common than "dee oh ess".

It might be appropriate to argue that writing standards that require titles to be all uppercase are hopelessly antique. At the very least you could have big and small capital letters. nevertheless, we sometimes have to live with such old standards.

  • 2
    Instinct tells me DOS'd - like RSVP'd and KO'd.
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented Apr 20 at 1:39
  • 2
    I would go with DOS'd. Commented Apr 20 at 6:21
  • It's not my field, but I do try to keep up with infirmation security issues. I'd say the spelling DoS is very common and clearer than the alternatives, but pronounced as an acronym of 1 syllable.
    – Chris H
    Commented Apr 20 at 7:53
  • Based on that I'd be tempted to go with DoSsed, certainly if transcribing speech in which it wasn't spelt out
    – Chris H
    Commented Apr 20 at 7:55
  • Cambridge Dictionary indeed gives this abbreviation as an acronym rather than an initialism, but spells it DoS to distinguish the intended lexeme from the default expansion, disk operating system. // Standardisation is hard to invoke here, as verbing of acronyms is exceedingly rare. I'd not double the S, but signal an acronym root: DoS-ed. Commented Apr 20 at 10:54

1 Answer 1


If you want to use correct English:

DOS is a noun, not a verb. Don't use it as a verb. Say things like:

I will execute a DOS attack on you.

If you don't care about correct English:

...then it doesn't really matter, does it. Spell it however you want.

Be aware that "doss" is already a verb, so try not to confuse the two. Unless context is very clear using DOS in capitals is probably necessary to indicate what you are talking about.

  • 1
    @DJClayton: While I tend to agree with you about "better" English usage, I was perhaps not being clear that I am not looking for prescriptive advice, but for descriptive advice. I.e. I am trying to find the best ways of writing down what I hear people talking about, e.g. on video and audio meetings. Near verbatim.
    – Krazy Glew
    Commented Apr 20 at 0:17
  • 1
    @KrazyGlew If you are doing verbatim transcription than 'DoS-ed' or 'DoS'd' is the right option. Clearly explains to the reader what was said. (Assuming the readers have knowledge of slang. If they don't, it won't matter what you use, they won't understand it at first glance.)
    – EMS
    Commented Apr 20 at 6:30

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