HOME

TheInfoList




A backronym, or bacronym, is an
acronym An acronym is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning (linguistics), meaning. In many la ...
formed from a word that existed prior to the invention of the backronym. Unlike a typical acronym, in which a new word is constructed from a phrase, the phrase corresponding to the backronym is selected to fit an already existing word. Backronyms may be invented with either serious or humorous intent, or they may be a type of
false etymology A false etymology (fake etymology, popular etymology, etymythology, pseudo-etymology, or par(a)etymology) is a popular but false belief about the origin or derivation of a specific word. It is sometimes called a folk etymology Folk etymology (al ...
or
folk etymology Folk etymology (also known as popular etymology, analogical reformation, reanalysis, morphological reanalysis or etymological reinterpretation) is a change in a word or phrase resulting from the replacement of an unfamiliar form by a more familia ...
. The word is a blend of ''back'' and ''acronym''. An acronym is a word derived from the initial letters of the words of a phrase, such as the word ''
radar Radar (radio detection and ranging) is a detection system that uses radio waves to determine the distance (''ranging''), angle, or velocity of objects. It can be used to detect aircraft, Marine radar, ships, spacecraft, guided missiles, motor ...

radar
'', constructed from "radio detection and ranging". By contrast, a backronym is "an acronym deliberately formed from a phrase whose initial letters spell out a particular word or words, either to create a memorable name or as a fanciful explanation of a word's origin." For example, the
United States Department of Justice The United States Department of Justice (DOJ), also known as the Justice Department, is a of the government tasked with the enforcement of federal and in the United States. It is equivalent to the or of other countries. The department is h ...
's
Amber Alert An Amber Alert (also AMBER Alert) or a child abduction emergency alert (Specific Area Message Encoding, SAME code: CAE) is a message distributed by a child abduction alert system to ask the public for help in finding abducted children. It origina ...

Amber Alert
program was named after
Amber Hagerman An Amber Alert (also AMBER Alert) or a child abduction emergency alert ( SAME code: CAE) is a message distributed by a child abduction alert system to ask the public for help in finding abducted children. It originated in the United States in 19 ...
, a 9-year-old abducted and murdered in 1996; but officials later publicized the backronym "America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response". The earliest known citation of the word in print is as ''bacronym'' in the November 1983 edition of ''
The Washington Post ''The Washington Post'' (also known as the ''Post'' and, informally, ''WaPo'') is an American daily newspaper A newspaper is a Periodical literature, periodical publication containing written News, information about current events and is ...

The Washington Post
'' monthly
neologism A neologism (; from Greek νέο- ''néo-'', "new" and λόγος ''lógos'', "speech, utterance") is a relatively recent or isolated term, word, or phrase that may be in the process of entering common use, but that has not yet been fully accepted ...
contest. The newspaper quoted winning reader Meredith G. Williams of
Potomac, Maryland Potomac () is a census-designated place (CDP) in Montgomery County, Maryland, Montgomery County, Maryland, United States, named after the nearby Potomac River. Potomac is the seventh most educated small town in America, based on percentage of resi ...
, defining it as the "same as an acronym, except that the words were chosen to fit the letters".


Examples

An example of a backronym as a
mnemonic A mnemonic () device, or memory device, is any learning technique that aids information retention or retrieval (remembering) in the human memory Memory is the faculty of the by which or is , stored, and retrieved when needed. It is the ...

mnemonic
is the
Apgar score The Apgar score is a method to quickly summarize the health of newborn 222x222px, Eight-month-old sororal twin sisters An infant (from the Latin word ''infans'', meaning 'unable to speak' or 'speechless') is the more formal or specialise ...

Apgar score
, used to assess the health of newborn babies. The rating system was devised by and named after
Virginia Apgar Virginia Apgar (June 7, 1909August 7, 1974) was an American physician A physician (American English), medical practitioner (English in the Commonwealth of Nations, Commonwealth English), medical doctor, or simply doctor, is a professional wh ...

Virginia Apgar
, but ten years after the initial publication, the backronym ''APGAR'' was coined in the US as a mnemonic learning aid: Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity and Respiration. An example of the title of a piece of legislation being a backronym is the
CARES Act The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act, is a $2.2trillion economic stimulus In economics, stimulus refers to attempts to use monetary policy or fiscal policy (or stabilization policy in general) to ...
of 2020, which stands for the
Coronavirus Coronaviruses are a group of related Orthornavirae, RNA viruses that cause diseases in mammals and birds. In humans and birds, they cause respiratory tract infections that can range from mild to lethal. Mild illnesses in humans include some ca ...

Coronavirus
Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.


As false etymologies

Sometimes a backronym is reputed to have been used in the formation of the original word, and amounts to a false etymology or an
urban legend An urban legend or contemporary legend is a genre of folklore Folklore is the expressive body of culture shared by a particular group of people; it encompasses the tradition A tradition is a belief A belief is an attitude Attitud ...
. Acronyms were very rare in the English language prior to the 1930s, and most etymologies of common words or phrases that suggest origin from an acronym are false. Examples include ''posh'', an adjective describing stylish items or members of the upper class. A popular story derives the word as an acronym from "port out, starboard home", referring to nineteenth century first-class cabins on
ocean liners An ocean liner is a passenger ship primarily used as a form of transportation across seas or oceans. Liners may also carry cargo or mail, and may sometimes be used for other purposes (such as for pleasure cruises or as hospital ships). Cargo ve ...

ocean liners
, which were shaded from the sun on outbound voyages east (e.g. from Britain to
India India, officially the Republic of India (Hindi Hindi (Devanagari: , हिंदी, ISO 15919, ISO: ), or more precisely Modern Standard Hindi (Devanagari: , ISO 15919, ISO: ), is an Indo-Aryan language spoken chiefly in Hindi Belt, ...

India
) and homeward heading voyages west. ; published in the US as The word's actual etymology is unknown, but more likely related to
Romani Romani may refer to: Ethnicities *Romani people The Romani (), also known as the Roma, are an Indo-Aryan people, traditionally nomadic itinerants living mostly in Europe Europe is a continent A continent is one of several ...
''påš xåra'' ("half-penny") or to
Urdu Urdu (; ur, , ALA-LC ALA-LC (American Library Association The American Library Association (ALA) is a nonprofit organization A nonprofit organization (NPO), also known as a non-business entity, not-for-profit organization, or nonpr ...

Urdu
(borrowed from Persian) ''safed-pōśh'' ("white robes"), a term for wealthy people. Similarly, the distress signal
SOS is a Morse code Morse code is a method used in telecommunication to Character encoding, encode Written language, text characters as standardized sequences of two different signal durations, called ''dots'' and ''dashes'', or ''dits'' an ...

SOS
is often believed to be an abbreviation for "Save Our Ship" or "Save Our Souls" but was chosen because it has a simple and unmistakable Morse code representation three dots, three dashes, three dots, sent without any pauses between characters. More recent examples include the brand name ''
Adidas Adidas Aktiengesellschaft, AG (; stylized as adidas since 1949) is a German multinational corporation, founded and headquartered in Herzogenaurach, Germany, that designs and manufactures shoes, clothing and accessories. It is the largest spor ...

Adidas
'', named after company founder Adolf "Adi" Dassler but falsely believed to be an acronym for "All Day I Dream About Sport";All Day I Dream About Sport: The Story of the Adidas Brand, ''
Wiki A wiki ( ) is a hypertext Hypertext is text displayed on a or other with references () to other text that the reader can immediately access. Hypertext documents are interconnected by hyperlinks, which are typically activated b ...

Wiki
'', said to stand for "What I Know Is", but in fact derived from the
Hawaiian Hawaiian may refer to: * Hawaii state residents, regardless of ancestry * Native Hawaiians, the current term for the indigenous people of the Hawaiian Islands or their descendants * Hawaiian language Historic uses * things and people of the Kingdo ...
phrase ''wiki-wiki'' meaning "fast"; or
Yahoo! Yahoo (, styled as yahoo''!'') is an American web services The term Web service (WS) is either: * a service offered by an electronic device to another electronic device, communicating with each other via the World Wide Web, or * a server run ...
, sometimes claimed to mean "Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle", but in fact chosen because Yahoo's founders liked the word's meaning of "rude, unsophisticated, uncouth" (taken from
Jonathan Swift Jonathan Swift (30 November 1667 – 19 October 1745) was an , essayist, political (first for the , then for the ), poet and who became of , hence his common , "Dean Swift". Swift is remembered for works such as ' (1704), ' (1712), ' (172 ...
's book ''
Gulliver's Travels ''Gulliver's Travels'', or ''Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. In Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships'' is a 1726 prose satire Satire is a genre Genre () is any form or ...

Gulliver's Travels
'').


Use in Humour

In "
Bender Should Not Be Allowed on TV "Bender Should Not Be Allowed on TV" (also known as "Bender Should Not Be Allowed on Television") is the sixth episode in the fourth season of the American animated television series ''Futurama ''Futurama'' is an American science fiction anima ...
," the 6th episode of Season 4 of the science fiction animated sitcom ''
Futurama ''Futurama'' is an American animated Animation is a method in which Image, figures are manipulated to appear as moving images. In traditional animation, images are drawn or painted by hand on transparent cel, celluloid sheets to be photogra ...
'', several characters join an advocacy group known as "Fathers Against Rude Television" or FART – hence becoming an instance of rude television themselves.


See also

* Acronymization *
Acrostic An acrostic is a (or other form of writing) in which the first letter (or syllable, or word) of each line (or , or other recurring feature in the text) spells out a word, message or the alphabet. The word comes from the French ''acrostiche'' fro ...

Acrostic
*
Mnemonic A mnemonic () device, or memory device, is any learning technique that aids information retention or retrieval (remembering) in the human memory Memory is the faculty of the by which or is , stored, and retrieved when needed. It is the ...

Mnemonic
* Pseudo-acronym *
Recursive acronym A recursive acronym is an acronym An acronym is a word or name formed from the initial components of a longer name or phrase, usually using individual initial letters, as in NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) or European Union, EU (Europ ...
*
Retronym A retronym is a newer name for an existing thing that differentiates the original form/version from a more recent one. It is thus a word or phrase created to avoid confusion between two types, whereas previously (before there were more than one typ ...
* Satiric misspelling


References


External links

*{{wiktionary-inline B Etymology Folklore Neologisms Types of words 1980s neologisms