What Are Stonks?

Stonks Explained

Definition

The word "stonks" is the intentional misspelling of the word “stocks” and is often used as part of a meme poking fun at a particular stock, the stock market in general, or uninformed financial decisions.

person sitting on couch in jeans and white shirt looking at computer
Photo:

Nora Carol Photography / Getty Images

The 'meme man' figure in a suit in front of stock charts with an upward arrow

Know Your Meme

Definition of Stonks

The word “stonks” is slang that purposely misspells the word “stocks.” It’s often used to humorously describe the stock market, especially big gains or losses.

“Stonks is just a goofy, often sarcastic way of saying/spelling stocks,” J.J. Wenrich, certified financial planner (CFP) and author of the book “Teaching Kids to Buy Stocks,” told The Balance via email.

The word was first introduced in 2017 when it was used in an internet stock market meme, according to the website Know Your Meme. In the original meme, a cartoon person wearing a suit stands in front of a graphic showing stock market numbers. A red arrow points up and to the right, showing the trend in stock value, and the image is captioned "stonks."

Stonks Memes

The stonks meme has gradually risen in popularity with the help of a few key spotlights. For example, Elon Musk shared a variation of the stonks meme in a June 2019 tweet.

A tweet from Elon Musk reads "Stonk tip of the day" with a stonks meme

In June 2020, when someone inquired about Tesla’s rising stock price, Musk responded with a tweet that merely said “Stonks.”

Meme Man

The person shown in the stonks memes is a character known as Meme Man, a 3D graphic rendering of a human head. Early users attribute it to a 4Chan messageboard, and memes featuring the image became popular on Facebook, Tumblr, and Reddit.

Confused Stonks

In this version of the meme, Meme Man appears against a background of green numbers overlaid with red arrows going both up and down. The confused stonks meme (or simply the words "confused stonks) is often applied to a confusing or nonsensical situation.

Confused stonks meme

Not Stonks

This variation of the stonks meme shows Meme Man in front of a red background of declining stocks. Similar to the original stonks meme, it is typically used in response to what the commenter views as a questionable financial decision or a situation with a negative financial impact.

not stonks meme

How Stonks Work

If you followed any of the news coverage of the GameStop surge—or more importantly, the social media commentary—you’ve almost certainly encountered the term stonks in reference to it.

When retail investors banded together to counter a hedge fund’s short position on the GameStop stock in early 2021, the stonks meme took off.

The hedge fund shorted GameStop’s stock, betting on a decline in its share price. The stock chart, which had been a fairly flat line gradually trending lower in the preceding year, suddenly shot up astronomically as retail investors, urged by the Reddit page WallStreetBets, started buying. The share price increase hurt the hedge fund’s chances at a successful short. As the excitement grew, more and more investors joined in, many using the popular investing app Robinhood.

The entire affair eventually came to a halt, with regulatory scrutiny and Robinhood temporarily stopping trades of GameStop, but the frenzied trading is a good example of stonks. In the five years between the first trading day in January 2016 and January 2021, GameStop’s stock on average closed at $19.54, and the highest the stock price hit in trading during that time was $33.70 in April 2016. On Jan. 28, 2021, GameStop saw its share price hit a high of $483.

Note

In the aftermath of the GameStop saga, one question that has yet to be answered is what investing in the era of stonks will look like moving forward.

There’s no doubt that the GameStop event drew attention and likely acted as some people’s first interaction with the stock market. Asset management firm Hartford Funds conducted a survey to gauge investor sentiment around the GameStop surge and found that 25% of respondents had an increased interest in the stock market after the event, while 13% have already increased their stock market participation.

Moving forward, the stonks memes will likely continue to be associated with stocks that have attracted public attention or excitement. But according to investing experts, the GameStop style of investing is one that most people should avoid.

Note

According to investing experts, it may be smart to separate the long-term investing you do to grow wealth from the short-term trading you may do for fun.

“As always, the best thing retail investors can do is to do as little as possible,” John Stoj, financial advisor and founder of Verbatim Financial, told The Balance in an email. “Control the controllable, which is investment costs, and their own emotional reaction to the markets. Invest in as simple a portfolio of low-cost index funds as possible, matched to their personal level of risk tolerance that will allow them to remain invested without making the most emotional of retail investor decisions: buying high and selling low.”

“We understand that some clients enjoy the thrill of trading,” Aviva Pinto, managing director of wealth management firm Wealthspire Advisors, told The Balance in an email. “For those clients, I always ask the question ‘if you were going to a casino, how much would you be willing to lose?’ The reason I ask that is that trading is speculative just like a casino. Someone wins and someone loses.”

Once clients give her that figure, Pinto said she segregates that into “play money,” or money they can use to speculate and does not account for it in clients’ financial plans.

Key Takeaways

  • Stonks is the purposeful misspelling of the word “stocks,” often used to joke about the stock market or financial decisions.
  • The term became popular in 2017 when it was used in a meme.
  • It gained momentum in early 2021 when GameStop’s stock surged in price, thanks to retail investors.
  • Experts advise investors to avoid stonks for long-term financial planning.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What does stonks mean in slang?

"Stonk" and "stonks" are intentional misspellings of the words "stock" and "stocks." They're used to joke about individual stocks, the stock market as a whole, or questionable financial decisions.

Where did stonks guy come from?

Stonks memes typically show a character called Meme Man, a 3D rendering of a human head that originally appeared on 4Chan and became popular on Facebook, Tumblr, and Reddit. Meme Man has been edited onto different backgrounds to create variations of stonks memes such as confused stonks and not stonks.

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Updated by
Heather van der Hoop
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Heather van der Hoop (she/her) has been editing since 2010. She has edited thousands of personal finance articles on everything from what happens to debt when you die to the intricacies of down-payment assistance programs. Her work has appeared on The Penny Hoarder, NerdWallet, and more.
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Sources
The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Know Your Meme. “Stonks.”

  2. Twitter. "@elonmusk, 2:56 p.m. June 20, 2019."

  3. Twitter. "@elonmusk, 4:01 a.m. June 11, 2020."

  4. Know Your Meme. “Meme Man.”

  5. Yahoo Finance. “GameStop Corp. (GME) Price Chart.”

  6. Yahoo Finance. “GameStop Corp. (GME) Historical Price Data, ” December 31, 2015- March 21, 2021.

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