[[quoteright:200:[[Franchise/{{Batman}} http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/safewordbatman_695.png]]]]

->''"My safeword is 'OW!'"''
-->-- '''T-shirt slogan'''

Sometimes a word that really means "No" is needed, but the actual word "no" isn't available for one reason or another. A "safe word" can be aimed at the person who interacts with you, to underscore that you really need to hit the emergency brake. Or it could be meant for a third party that might come to your aid. Or both.

In the American UsefulNotes/{{BDSM}} subculture, three safe words are widespread: Red for full stop emergency shutdown, yellow for "This is too hard, I need us to slow down," and green for "Don't mind my screams, you can push harder." Other countries' BDSM scenes can be considerably more lax, though, with some even forgoing safewords altogether and placing the responsibility on the dom to ensure that things don't get out of hand. Sometimes, such as when the bottom is gagged or may have difficulty verbalizing under stress, a setup is employed where the bottom holds an object that will make a noticeable noise when dropped and drops it as their safe "word".

Of course, any word can be used as a safe word. And the concept is not limited to sexual situations either. Commonly used by undercover operatives of all kinds while wearing a wire or being in a bugged room, people engaged in a combat sport, and people engaged in a setting where [[AllPartOfTheShow reality and fiction could easily be mixed up]]. (See CovertDistressCode.)

When PlayedForDrama, (sub)cultural flavor or similar, the safe word is likely to be either "red" or some other simple word that isn't easily used by mistake. When PlayedForLaughs, it is instead likely to be:
# Something hilariously unsexy, such as the name of an [[AcceptableTargets Ugly Politician Local to Area Where Writer Lives]].
# Something which can be confused easily with something else, leading to [[HilarityEnsues hilarious consequences]] when the safe word is invoked by mistake.
# Something which is hard to remember or hard to pronounce, giving the character a really hard time.

Compare SafeSaneAndConsensual. Contrast TrustPassword.

No sexual or sexualized Real Life Examples Please. Non-sexual examples are okay.


[[AC: {{Anime}} and {{Manga}}]]
* ''Anime/MobileSuitGundamSEEDDestiny'' has a version of this that is both extreme and [[IdiotBall stupid]]. The [[TheFederation the Earth Alliance's]] enhanced soldiers each possess a "block word" that's ''supposed'' to render them docile. What it ''actually'' does, however, is [[TheBerserker drive them completely nuts]]. To make matters worse, the two block words we hear are common words that one is very likely to hear on a daily basis: "die" for Stella and "mother" for Auel. In fact, the one time we see Auel subjected to his block word, he blurts out "Mother's gonna die!", which in turn sets Stella off and makes the situation that much worse.
** According to WordOfGod, Sting's block word (the one that wasn't revealed in the show) is "dream", which is just as poor a choice as his teammates'.

* Indirect in ''ComicBook/CityOfDreams'': Those who don't want to play anymore simply wake up.

* A ''Series/BuffyTheVampireSlayer'' fanfic has the safe word Hellmouth, chosen for its unsexyness.
* A Literature/HarryPotter song-fic for Rihanna's S&M, were the safe word, and title, was Skittles.
* Another Harry Potter fanfic, called ''[[http://www.fanfiction.net/s/7094555/1/ Roll Out The Red Carpet]]'', plays with this trope; When Ron and Hermione role-play, they use the phrase "Jam Jar" as a sign to stop (as they acknowledge that, when playing particular roles, "stop" and "no" might just be them acting). They almost get into trouble [[spoiler:when, upon almost getting caught in Hermione's office, Ron doesn't stop what he's doing because she didn't say jam jar and he thought she liked it]], and it leads to a CrowningMomentOfHeartwarming later on when [[spoiler:Ron uses the safe word to make sure that Hermione's okay with what they're doing, and to check that he's not hurting her too much.]]
* In a ''WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagic'' fanfic called ''My Little Slave'' [[spoiler: [[TooKinkyToTorture Fluttershy]] is involved in a lengthy rape-dungeon roleplay which she eventually brings to an end in Chapter 29 - as she thinks it's going to get Twilight and Applejack hurt - giving the safe-word, "Butterflies", at least 19 times.]].
* In the {{Ironman}} fanfic, A Kink in the Armor, Tony and Pepper use 'board meeting' as a safe word.
* The ''Series/{{NCIS}}'' fic [[http://www.fanfiction.net/s/8935062/1/Shards-To-A-Whole "Shards To a Whole"]] combines this trope with "YouCalledMeXItMustBeSerious"; Since Tim [=McGee=] and Abby Scuito seldom call each other by their full names, Tim's safe word is "Abigail" while Abby's safe word is "Timothy".
* Averted in the ''Film/{{Maleficent}}'' fanfic ''Fanfic/YourServantMistress'': Diaval asks to be given a safeword, Maleficent tells him that his safeword is "no", or any other indication that he wants to stop - she isn't into rape-play and thus sees no need for a safeword. She offers him that he can choose one if that makes him feel better, though.

* ''{{Eurotrip}}'' features a combination of confusion and hard to remember when Cooper unknowingly goes into a BDSM club, Vandersexxx. The safe word in question? "Flggɘnk∂čhil∫n." Yes, thats the Euro symbol, a partial derivative sign (∂), ''and'' an integration sign in there.
* ''Four Christmases'': The main characters are visiting the parents. They decide to use the word "mistletoe" for when they cannot take it any longer and want an excuse to leave.
* ''TheGoodsLiveHardSellHard'' has one character, after being bored with "making love," tells the girl he is with to do whatever she wants. His safe word is "Blueberry Pancakes."
* Invoked in ''Film/{{Serenity}}'': the phrase that puts [[AxCrazy River]] to sleep is referred to as one of these. Strangely, it's a popular Russian idiom that wouldn't make for a good code phrase in RealLife (it literally translates to "it's for chickens to laugh at" and means "it's ridiculous"). There must be no Russian-speakers at all in this system.
* [[HotRod Rod]] chooses the word "whiskey" for his safe word when practicing for the big stunt at the end of the film. Unfortunately, not only can he not pronounce the word correctly, but his crew is unable to help him anyway.

* ''Literature/CallahansCrosstimeSaloon'' (''Callahan's Lady''):
** Played with by Spider Robinson. In the Bower at Lady Sally's (a pretty much anything-goes orgy room), there's only one safeword: "No". Also, Lady Sally's [[HighClassCallGirl artists]] have a code word they can use to call for help if a client gets out of hand (the rooms are all on audiotape which is constantly monitored).
** In the later book ''Lady Slings the Booze'' one of Lady Sally's employees explains the concept of safewords to an outsider. They use two: "the First Word" (called Yellow in the trope description) and "the Second Word" (Red).
* ''Literature/KushielsLegacy'': A safe word is known as a ''signale.'' To persist with BDSM play after a partner has given the ''signale'' is considered heresy according to their religion of "Love as Thou Wilt."
* ''The Last Hot Time'': Appears in this story by JohnMFord, as the hero learns about BDSM.
* ''A Strong Hand'': In Catt Ford's story, the main couple use the safe words "London" (for stop) and "yellow" (for slow down).
* ''Literature/TiesThatBind'': This is one of the topics Guy Baldwin discusses in this book.
* ''Literature/TheAdministrationSeries'': While relaxing in the Sim, Warrick sees a moving plastic duck that a programmer had left. Later that evening, during a BDSM/sex session with his one-night stand, the first safeword that comes to his mind is "plastic duck".
* The standard "red" for "stop" and "yellow" for "slow down" are established in Chapter 11 of ''Literature/FiftyShadesOfGrey'', and it is implied that Ana could have stopped any sex that happened or was threatened after that point. However, the next two books establish very clearly that whatever Ana does regarding safewords, she's going to be wrong. At the end of ''Fifty Shades Grey'', Ana asks Grey to beat her as hard as he can to see if she can handle it. She hates it and leaves him because she can't deal with being hit that way. In ''Fifty Shades Darker'', however, he says that they both behaved stupidly, demanding to know why she didn't safeword--never mind that she was testing his control and her own endurance, or that safewords had never been defined or explained to her. Several months later, in ''Fifty Shades Freed'', Grey is torturing Ana with orgasm denial while she is shackled to a piece of bondage furniture; this is quite literally revenge for her ''not'' being home when a kidnapper (and attempted rapist) arrived at the penthouse. Ana, for the first time in three books, screams, "Red!" Grey equates her safewording with someone attempting to kidnap her. Both, to him, are equally upsetting:
--> A deranged asshole gets into my apartment to kidnap my wife. She wont do as shes told. She drives me crazy. She safe words on me.

* ''[[Series/TheOfficeUS The Office]]'': Michael becomes Jan's partner for a period in the third season, but is unnerved by her many fetishes and fondness for roleplay. But he's too much of a wimp to leave her, even when she "forgets" their safe word. Luckily [[spoiler:he manages to by the end of the episode.]]
* Tracy on ''Series/ThirtyRock'': "Boundaries are made to be tested. That's why my wife and I stopped using a safe word."
* On ''Series/CSIMiami'', an undercover agent indirectly causes the death of a woman he was using to collect evidence on a drug dealer when he ignores her (coded) call for help.
* In the original ''Series/{{CSI}}'', Grissom and [[BrainsAndBondage Lady Heather]] are having an academic discussion the concept of the safe word in BSDM context, (in a scene rife with UnresolvedSexualTension), specifically the idea that the dominant must respect requests to stop. Several episodes later the discussion receives a dramatic CallBack - Lady Heather [[spoiler: has caught and chained the man who tortured and killed her daughter and, in a rage, is whipping him bloody]], and only stops when Grissom invokes the rule and forces her to acknowledge it.
** Finn's safe word? "Stop".
* In one of the first "I'm Carol" sketches on ''SaturdayNightLive'', Carol was at a BDSM party where they went through everybody's safe words twice because Carol couldn't remember what they were. [[http://snltranscripts.jt.org/04/04gkey.phtml]]
** Another ''SNL'' BDSM sketch, involving Kristin Wiig as politician Nancy Pelosi, ended with the sound of a belt sander as a dude is screaming. She runs off stage yelling the safe word. For the record, it was "Palomino".
* In ''WhiteCollar'', Neal has to go undercover with minimal surveillance (GPS and audio) to determine whether his target has some stolen bonds. His code for the FBI to move in is "long flight".
** Peter and Elizabeth have "azaleas," which lets Elizabeth know if Peter's all right if he's in a potentially dangerous situation. Mozzie's is "bread basket".
* A similar thing in an episode of ''MadAboutYou'', when Jamie ropes Paul into making a new "I ♥ NY" commercial. They talked about having a code word, like "paramecium" or "Estes Kefauver", but never actually settled on one. Then they were on the set, and by now it's way too late to back out:
-->'''Paul:''' Honey? Paramecium! '''Big ones!'''
* On ''Series/TheDrewCareyShow'', when Drew & Co. went to visit his creepy stalker (but discovered that the stalker had modeled his house, and his life, after Drew's) the signal was for someone to say he was tired. After the stalker takes them prisoner, Oswald says, "Boy, I sure am sleepy," as if that would get them out of their predicament.
* In ''Series/ThePretender'', a simulation could be interrupted with the safe word "Refuge".
* In ''Series/{{Castle}}'', Castle has the safe word "apples", used in two episodes so far - in fact, he mentions it the very first time that Beckett handcuffs him i.e. the pilot, demonstrating his ChivalrousPervert side. There are also hints that Beckett has a dominant streak.
* In ''Series/GeneSimmonsFamilyJewels'', Gene had to experience some domination and had the safe word, "ice cream".
* Non-sexual example from ''Series/SabrinaTheTeenageWitch''. Sabrina and her friends are going to a party, and are afraid it will be boring. They agree to use "Kazoo" as code for "Get me out of here!"
* ''Series/ImportantThingsWithDemetriMartin'' had a series of skits about a BSDM couple that had chosen unfortunate safewords, one of which was "the correct pronunciation of Gnocchi." In the second skit the Safe Word was "Bill Paxton," only the Sub couldn't remember his name ("AGH! That...that guy! He was in that movie! AGH!"). The last sketch of the episode features them looking up 'gnocchi' in the dictionary and arguing about it.
* On ''Series/DesperateHousewives'' when Rex is teaching Bree the basics of domination, she immediately requests they change the safeword, as it happens to be the city her aunts lives in and doesn't want to think of her aunt during sex.
* Barney and Robin from ''Series/HowIMetYourMother'' use "flugelhorn."
* In one ''Series/LawAndOrderSpecialVictimsUnit'' episode, the detectives interview a woman who sold the VictimOfTheWeek some BDSM sex toys as they investigate whether the death might have been caused by a sexual accident rather than murder. She's upset at hearing about the victim's death, explaining that she taught her about [[SafeWord code words]] and [[SafeSaneAndConsensual safety]]. (Minutes later, the detectives find half a million dollars' worth of diamonds inside the handle of an unused whip, and the investigation is [[NeverSuicide redirected]] to high finance crimes.)
* Discussed on ''Series/BuffyTheVampireSlayer''. After Angel prevents Faith from raping and killing Xander, she briefly tries to suggest that they were role-playing. His dubious reply is to ask if Xander forgot the safe word. Faith's response is "Safewords are for wimps".
* Non-sexual example: ''Series/{{Frasier}}'' and Roz agree on one to let Roz know if Frasier's not interested in a blind date. [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b7mz3ML82vg It takes less than a minute for him to use it.]]
* In an early ''{{Portlandia}}'' episode, Fred and Carrie crossdress as a couple who use "cacao." It gets out of hand, to the point where female!Fred texts "cacao" to male!Carrie when they're on opposite sides of town.
* Louis in ''{{Suits}}'': "Safewords are for pussies."
* When Bo has a rebound threesome in the ''Series/LostGirl'' episode "Faetal Attraction", she comments "We're going to need a safe word." The episode [[SexyDiscretionShot fades to black]] before we find out what the safe word actually is, though...
* Non-Sexual example: In an episode of ''{{Psych}}'', Jules must go undercover on a dating website to help catch a serial killer. While on the dates, she uses 'I'm hot' to indicate that she's in trouble and 'I'm cold' to indicate that everything's okay.
* The British comedy series ''Safeword'' uses this as a premise - two guests pick safewords at the beginning of the episode and use it when the tasks (allowing comedians access to your social networking accounts, insult-fests) become too embarrassing for them. For example, Sinnita used '[[Creator/BradPitt Brad Nip]]' (turns out they dated in the late 80's - who knew?)

* ''Videogame/SaintsRowTheThird'' has a brothel named Safe Word, a club for those with BDSM tastes. Kinzie mentions hers is ''teacup'' and she is quickly spirited away before she can reveal more [[{{Squick}} squicky]] bits of information.
** In ''VideoGame/SaintsRowIV'', a recreated AI [[HeelFaceTurn Tanya]] tells Kinzie she'd make a good addition to her brothel, Kinzie quickly cries out "[[CallBack Teacup!]]"
* A Sidequest in ''Videogame/{{Dishonored}}'' involves messing with an art dealer strapped into an electric chair, using it for masochistic play. His safe word? "[[{{Irony}} Retribution.]]" Corvo can choose to [[VideoGameCrueltyPotential ignore it]] and shock him until he passes out.
* At the beginning of ''Videogame/{{Magicka}}'', the player character(s) are accidentally dropped into a dungeon where the tutorial takes place. Someone from the party above shouts down, "Remember, the safe word is 'Banana!'" The pause menu will have an option simply labeled "Banana," which allows you to skip the tutorial.
* In ''Videogame/DragonAgeInquisition'', when romancing The Iron Bull he sets up a few ground rules due to the dom/sub dynamic present in the bedroom and the [[ManOfSteelWomanOfKleenex massive size differences between you two]], one of which is using "Katoh" as your safeword. Later on, he can even talk about what he thinks the other companions might use as their own safewords.

* Prominently referenced and sometimes used in ''Webcomic/{{Collar 6}}'', seeing how it is all about BDSM. Laura's safe word, for example, is [[spoiler:"halo"]].
* Used in [[http://www.unshelved.com/2007-10-13 this]] ''{{Unshelved}}'' strip (involving yoga).
* The BDSM webcomic ''{{Webcomic/Sunstone}}'' is named for Ally's safeword, which both of her subs Lisa and Anne use when they're with her. Alan's safeword, which Anne uses, is a three-note hum that can be used through a gag, though Marion's safeword with Alan was shown to be "mercy."
* ''Webcomic/{{xkcd}}'' teaches us chemists have the [[http://xkcd.com/1039/ worst safewords]].
* ''Webcomic/SaturdayMorningBreakfastCereal'' teaches us that introducing safewords in nonsexual contexts [[http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2586#comic is a fun way of creeping people out]].
* Subverted in one SomethingPositive strip, where dominatrix Candy comments on a heartwarming moment and her client says "How sweet!" Then...
--> '''Client:''' "How sweet" is my safeword, mistress!
--> '''Candy:''' Well not any more! Guess the new one!
* ''Webcomic/CyanideAndHappiness'' [[http://explosm.net/comics/3785/ gives us]] what might be the most ill-chosen safeword ever.

* ''[[ImAMarvelAndImADC Marvel/DC]]'': Apparently, Gobby's safe word is "pumpkin."
* In ''Literature/TalesOfMU'', Mackenzie's safe word is "basement".
* The live chat audience of online web show ''WebVideo/WhatTheFuckIsWrongWithYou'' has a safe word; "purple shotgun" which is usually reserved for co-host Tara's childhood horror stories. It doesn't do anything.

* In ''WesternAnimation/FamilyGuy'', Peter and Lois use "banana" as the safe word when they do BDSM.
* In ''Film/TeamAmericaWorldPolice'', our hero has a safe word when playing with the terrorists, so that his friends will know when to pull him out. [[spoiler:Because of the kind of movie this is, of course it doesn't work!]]
** Even better, it's less a safe word and more a "Safe Wild-Waving-Thrashing Gesture." [[spoiler:Which makes it even more hilarious when it doesn't work, despite the sign being really, incredibly obvious.]]
* In the ''WesternAnimation/{{Superjail}}'' episode "Cold-Blooded", Jared is sent into the prison undercover (against his will). The warden tells him that if things get rough, he can just say the safe word and Jailbot will get him out of there. Hearing that the safe word is "Baby make weewee," Jared objects that it isn't a word, much to the Warden's annoyance. [[spoiler:He then uses it almost immediately, but since the twins messed up Jailbot's circuitry, he's out of luck.]]
* ''WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons'' has a non-sexual version in "Large Marge", where [[ContinuityNod Bart's old elephant Stampy]] will flop on his side and become docile when he hears the word "Mugumbo". He uses this as part of a plan to restore Krusty's reputation, but he forgets the word at the key moment and doesn't remember it until [[ItMakesSenseInContext Marge flashes her surgically-enhanced breasts at a trade show audience]], causing him to cry out "Check out those mugumbos!"
** In a parody of ParanormalActivity, Homer has to accept the deal with a demon: in exchange for not taking Maggie away, he must get into a threesome with him and another demon, with the safeword being "cinnamon". Later, when Homer covers the camera and expresses his desire of trying something new, we hear the demon screaming [[TooSpicyForYogSothoth "Cinnamon! Cinnamon!"]]

%%Please note that: No sexual or sexualized Real Life Examples Please. Non-sexual examples are okay.
[[AC: RealLife]]
* Most full contact LARP groups have some sort of safe word that is usually relayed until everybody within earshot will immediately drop any weapons and listen for the coordinator. This is used in the case of injury, immediate danger, or urgent group wide announcements.
** The international AMTGARD standards for [=LARPing=] combat use 'Hold!' or an equivalent translation, as of the 2011 rulebook. (This may be derived from the Society for Creative Anachronism's practice, noted below.)
** Purely martial sword training groups use "Hold!" as well.
** Russian and other post-Soviet [=LARPers=] usually shout "STOP TIME" (yes, in English, which is not normally used in dialogue). A whistle can also be used, but it is more rare, since not all coordinators carry them.
* On shooting ranges, "Cease Fire!" is the universal safeword, meaning that ''everybody'' unloads, disarms, and puts the guns down.
* Martial Arts that involve grappling and/or partner drill will have usually something along these lines, with "tapping out" being the most common.
** Many instructors teach "tapping out" in a way that tapping your partner is your first priority,if you can't reach your partner you have to either tap yourself or the ground. This is extremely important if you're working on anything that has to do with the neck, especially if you're unable to speak or breath.
* "Cut" or "Reset" is this on any film set - it means "stop what you are doing and return to where you were."
* The Society for Creative Anachronism uses "Hold!" as a safeword, basically indicating that everyone should freeze. "Edge of the world" is also used to warn fighters they're close to stepping off the playing field (and into spectators).
* When Creator/ChristopherHitchens [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Efh_6_-tHgY agreed to be waterboarded]] for an article in Vanity Fair, he was given not only a safeword ("red"), but two metal objects he could drop as an additional nonvocal signal. [[spoiler: He used it within a few seconds, and afterwards stated that he didn't merely "drop" the objects but threw them down as hard as he could.]]
--> "We're going to place metal objects in each of your hands. These objects are to be released if you experience unbearable stress. As soon as you release one or both, this exercise and demonstration will end immediately."