What Is a “Hot Take,” and Where Did the Phrase Come From?

A man gets yelled at by people with megaphones.
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Hot takes are everywhere online. You’ve probably seen the phrase “hot take” thrown around, but what exactly does it mean? Where did it come from, and how do you use it?

A Hot Take Is a Controversial Opinion

A hot take is an opinion that’s unpopular to the point of controversy. In fact, many hot takes are published, posted, or said out loud just because of their controversial flavor.

On the internet (and occasionally in real life), intentional hot takes are preceded by an acknowledgment that the take is, in fact, hot. As an example, you or a friend might post “hot take: dogs should be illegal.”

It’s a lot like saying “in my opinion” before actually stating your opinion. Saying “hot take” gives people room to scrutinize or ignore what you’re saying, or it can frame what you’re saying as a joke.

Of course, most people put hot takes out there without saying the words “hot take.” This can be done on purpose, like when a friend posts something controversial on Facebook just for the hell of it. Or it can be done unintentionally, like when a friend throws out an opinion without realizing that it’s uninformed, ignorant, or just inappropriate for the social group.

People tend to respond to hot takes with anger, shock, or disbelief. That’s why some people intentionally post hot takes online—they just want to make others upset. But people are learning to respond to hot takes with phrases like “wow, that’s a hot take.” This turns the controversial opinion into something less threatening, although it can also turn people’s opinions into spectacles.

“Hot Take” Is a New Term, Kind Of

News happens in real-time on the internet. It’s shared for free and funneled through social media. As a result, fledgling news outlets can compete with established companies, and journalists are forced to work extra fast.

These are the circumstances that birthed the “hot take.” The word has some vague history in sports writing, but it ballooned in stature during 2012 because of Tebowing, the meme where you get down on one knee to pray like Tim Tebow.

An old-timey reporter laughs behind a typewriter.
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The Tebowing meme was created online and proliferated by sports fans. Before being covered by the NFL and other established outlets, it got a ton of attention from small websites like BuzzFeed (which is now a very big website).

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