An acronym is a word or name formed as an abbreviation from the
initial components in a phrase or a word, usually individual letters
NATO or laser) and sometimes syllables (as in Benelux).
There are no universal standards of the multiple names for such
abbreviations and of their orthographic styling. In English and most
other languages, such abbreviations historically had limited use, but
they became much more common in the 20th century. Acronyms are a type
of word formation process, and they are viewed as a subtype of
2 Comparing a few examples of each type
3 Historical and current use
3.1 Early examples in English
3.2 Current use
3.2.1 Aids to learning the expansion without leaving a document
3.2.3 As mnemonics
3.2.4 Acronyms as legendary etymology
4 Orthographic styling
4.1.1 Showing the ellipsis of letters
184.108.40.206 Ellipsis-is-understood style
220.127.116.11 Pronunciation-dependent style and periods
18.104.22.168 Other conventions
4.1.2 Representing plurals and possessives
4.2.1 All-caps style
22.214.171.124 Small-caps variant
126.96.36.199 Mixed-case variant
4.2.2 Pronunciation-dependent style and case
4.3 Numerals and constituent words
4.4 Casing of expansions
5 Changes to (or word play on) the expanded meaning
5.2 Redundant acronyms and RAS syndrome
5.3 Simple redefining
5.5 Contrived acronyms
5.6 Macronyms/nested acronyms
5.6.1 Recursive acronyms
6 Non-English languages
6.1 Specific languages
6.2 General grammatical considerations
8 See also
11 External links
Whereas an abbreviation may be any type of shortened form, such as
words with the middle omitted (for example, Rd for road or Dr for
Doctor), an acronym is a word formed from the first letter or first
few letters of each word in a phrase (such as sonar, created from
sound navigation and ranging). Attestations for Akronym in German are
known from 1921, and for acronym in English from 1940.
Although the word acronym is often used to refer to any abbreviation
formed from initial letters, some dictionaries and usage
commentators define acronym to mean an abbreviation that is pronounced
as a word, in contrast to an initialism (or
alphabetism)—an abbreviation formed from a string of initials
(and possibly pronounced as individual letters). Some dictionaries
include additional senses equating acronym with
initialism. The distinction, when made, hinges on whether
the abbreviation is pronounced as a word or as a string of individual
letters. Examples in reference works that make the distinction include
NATO /ˈneɪtoʊ/, scuba /ˈskuːbə/, and radar /ˈreɪdɑːr/ for
FBI /ˌɛfˌbiːˈaɪ/, CRT /ˌsiːˌɑːrˈtiː/, and
HTML /ˌeɪtʃˌtiːˌɛmˈɛl/ for initialisms. The
rest of this article uses acronym for both types of abbreviation.
The distinction is not well-maintained. According to Merriam-Webster's
Dictionary of English Usage: "A number of commentators ... believe
that acronyms can be differentiated from other abbreviations in being
pronounceable as words. Dictionaries, however, do not make this
distinction because writers in general do not. ... Initialism, an
older word than acronym, seems to be too little known to the general
public to serve as the customary term standing in contrast with
acronym in a narrow sense." About the use of acronym to only mean
those pronounced as words, Fowler's Modern English Usage (3rd ed.)
states: "The limitations of the term being not widely known to the
general public, acronym is also often applied to abbreviations that
are familiar but are not pronounceable as words. ... Such terms are
also called initialisms."
A clearer distinction has also been drawn, by Pyles & Algeo
(1970), who divided acronyms as a general category into word
acronyms pronounced as words, and initialisms sounded out as letters.
There is no special term for abbreviations whose pronunciation
involves the combination of letter names and words or word-like
pronunciations of strings of letters, such as
JPEG /ˈdʒeɪpɛɡ/ and
MS-DOS /ˌɛmɛsˈdɒs/. There is also some disagreement as to what to
call abbreviations that some speakers pronounce as letters and others
pronounce as a word. For example, the terms URL and IRA can be
pronounced as individual letters: /ˌjuːˌɑːrˈɛl/ and
/ˌaɪˌɑːrˈeɪ/, respectively; or as a single word: /ɜːrl/ and
/ˈaɪrə/, respectively.
The spelled-out form of an acronym or initialism (that is, what it
stands for) is called its expansion.
Comparing a few examples of each type
Pronounced as a word, containing only initial letters
NATO: North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Scuba: self-contained underwater breathing apparatus
Laser: light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation
GIF: Graphics Interchange Format
Pronounced as a word, containing a mixture of initial and non-initial
Gestapo: Geheime Staatspolizei ('secret state police')
Radar: radio detection and ranging
Pronounced as a string of letters, containing syllable-initial but not
necessarily word-initial letters
PMN: polymorphonuclear leukocytes
OCA: oculocutaneous albinism
Pronounced as a word or as a string of letters, depending on speaker
FAQ: ([fæk] or ef-a-cue) frequently asked questions
IRA: When used for Individual Retirement Account, can be pronounced as
letters (i-ar-a) or as a word [ˈaɪrə].
SQL: ([siːkwəl] or ess-cue-el) Structured Query Language.
Pronounced as a combination of spelling out and a word
CD-ROM: (cee-dee-[rɒm]) Compact Disc read-only memory
IUPAC: (i-u-[pæk] or i-u-pee-a-cee) International Union of Pure and
JPEG: (jay-[pɛɡ] or jay-pee-e-gee) Joint Photographic Experts Group
SFMOMA: (ess-ef-[moʊmə] or ess-ef-em-o-em-a) San Francisco Museum of
Pronounced only as a string of letters
BBC: British Broadcasting Corporation
OEM: original equipment manufacturer
United States of America
Pronounced as a string of letters, but with a shortcut
(triple-A) American Automobile Association; abdominal aortic aneurysm;
anti-aircraft artillery; Asistencia, Asesoría y Administración
(three-As) Amateur Athletic Association
IEEE: (I triple-E) Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
NAACP: (N double-A C P or N A A C P) National Association for the
Advancement of Colored People
NCAA: (N C double-A or N C two-A or N C A A) National Collegiate
Shortcut incorporated into name
3M: (three M) originally Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company
(ISC)²: (ISC squared) International Information Systems Security
W3C: (W-three C) World Wide Web Consortium
C4ISTAR: (C-four Istar) Command, Control, Communications, Computers,
Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Reconnaissance
NAC Breda: (Dutch football club) NOAD ADVENDO Combinatie ("NOAD
formed by the 1912 merger of two clubs from Breda:
(Nooit Opgeven Altijd Doorgaan "Never give up, always persevere")
(Aangenaam Door Vermaak En Nuttig Door Ontspanning "Pleasant by
entertainment and useful by relaxation")
GAIM (former name of Pidgin):
AOL Instant Messenger
GNU Image Manipulation Program
VHSIC hardware description language, where
VHSIC stands for
very-high-speed integrated circuit.
Recursive acronyms, in which the abbreviation refers to itself
GNU: GNU's not Unix!
Wine: Wine is not an emulator (originally, Windows emulator)
These may go through multiple layers before the self-reference is
HURD: HIRD of Unix-replacing daemons, where "HIRD" stands for "HURD of
interfaces representing depth"
Pseudo-acronyms, which consist of a sequence of characters that, when
pronounced as intended, invoke other, longer words with less
typing. This makes them gramograms.
BBQ: bee-bee-cue, for "barbecue".
CQ: cee-cue for "seek you", a code used by radio operators
IOU: i-o-u for "I owe you" (the true acronym would be IOY)
K9: kay-nine for "canine", used to designate police units utilizing
Abbreviations whose last abbreviated word is often redundantly
ATM machine: automated teller machine (machine)
HIV virus: human immunodeficiency virus (virus)
LCD display: liquid crystal display (display)
PIN number: personal identification number (number)
Pronounced as a word, containing letters as a word in itself
Historical and current use
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Acronymy, like retronymy, is a linguistic process that has existed
throughout history but for which there was little to no naming,
conscious attention, or systematic analysis until relatively recent
times. Like retronymy, it became much more common in the 20th century
than it had formerly been.
Ancient examples of acronymy (regardless of whether there was
metalanguage at the time to describe it) include the following:
Acronyms were used in Rome before the Christian era. For example, the
official name for the Roman Empire, and the Republic before it, was
SPQR (Senatus Populusque Romanus). Inscriptions dating
from antiquity, both on stone and on coins, use a lot of abbreviations
and acronyms to save room and work. For example, Roman first names, of
which there was only a small set, were almost always abbreviated.
Common terms were abbreviated too, such as writing just "F" for
filius, meaning "son of", a very common part of memorial inscriptions
mentioning people. Grammatical markers were abbreviated or left out
entirely if they could be inferred from the rest of the text.
So-called nomina sacra were used in many Greek biblical manuscripts.
The common words "God" (Θεός), "Jesus" (Ιησούς), "Christ"
(Χριστός), and some others, would be abbreviated by their first
and last letters, marked with an overline. This was just one of many
kinds of conventional scribal abbreviation, used to reduce the
time-consuming workload of the scribe and save on valuable writing
materials. The same convention is still commonly used in the
inscriptions on religious icons and the stamps used to mark the
eucharistic bread in Eastern Churches.
The early Christians in Rome, most of whom were Greek rather than
Latin speakers, used the image of a fish as a symbol for
Jesus in part
because of an acronym—fish in Greek is ichthys (ΙΧΘΥΣ), which
was said to stand for Ἰησοῦς Χριστός Θεοῦ
Υἱός Σωτήρ (Iesous CHristos THeou hUios Soter: "Jesus
Christ, God's Son, Savior"). This interpretation dates from the 2nd
and 3rd centuries and is preserved in the catacombs of Rome. And for
centuries, the Church has used the inscription
INRI over the crucifix,
which stands for the Latin Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum ("
Nazarene, King of the Jews").
The Hebrew language has a long history of formation of acronyms
pronounced as words, stretching back many centuries. The Hebrew Bible
("Old Testament") is known as "Tanakh", an acronym composed from the
Hebrew initial letters of its three major sections:
Torah (five books
Nevi'im (prophets), and
K'tuvim (writings). Many rabbinical
figures from the Middle Ages onward are referred to in rabbinical
literature by their pronounced acronyms, such as Rambam and
the initial letters of their full Hebrew names: Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon
and Rabbi Shlomo Yitzkhaki.
During the mid- to late-19th century, an acronym-disseminating trend
spread through the American and European business communities:
abbreviating corporation names in places where space was limited for
writing—such as on the sides of railroad cars (e.g., Richmond,
Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad → RF&P); on the sides of
barrels and crates; and on ticker tape and in the small-print
newspaper stock listings that got their data from it (e.g., American
Telephone and Telegraph Company → AT&T). Some well-known
commercial examples dating from the 1890s through 1920s include
Nabisco (National Biscuit Company),
Esso (from S.O., from Standard
Sunoco (Sun Oil Company).
Another driver for the adoption of acronyms was modern warfare with
its many highly technical terms. While there is no recorded use of
military acronyms in documents dating from the American Civil War
(acronyms such as ANV for "Army of Northern Virginia" post-date the
war itself), they had become somewhat common in
World War I
World War I and were
very much a part even of the vernacular language of the soldiers
during World War II, who themselves were referred to as G.I.s.
The widespread, frequent use of acronyms across the whole range of
registers is a relatively new linguistic phenomenon in most languages,
becoming increasingly evident since the mid-20th century. As literacy
rates rose, and as advances in science and technology brought with
them a constant stream of new (and sometimes more complex) terms and
concepts, the practice of abbreviating terms became increasingly
Oxford English Dictionary
Oxford English Dictionary (OED) records the first
printed use of the word initialism as occurring in 1899, but it did
not come into general use until 1965, well after acronym had become
By 1943, the term acronym had been used in English to recognize
abbreviations (and contractions of phrases) that were pronounced as
words. (It was formed from the Greek words ἄκρος, akros,
"topmost, extreme" and ὄνομα, onoma, "name.") For example, the
army offense of being absent without official leave was abbreviated to
"A.W.O.L." in reports, but when pronounced as a word (awol), it became
an acronym. While initial letters are commonly used to form an
acronym, the original definition was "a word made from the initial
letters or syllables of other words", for example UNIVAC from
UNIVersal Automatic Computer.
In English, acronyms pronounced as words may be a 20th-century
phenomenon. Linguist David Wilton in
Word Myths: Debunking Linguistic
Urban Legends claims that "forming words from acronyms is a distinctly
twentieth- (and now twenty-first-) century phenomenon. There is only
one known pre-twentieth-century [English] word with an acronymic
origin and it was in vogue for only a short time in 1886. The word is
colinderies or colinda, an acronym for the Colonial and Indian
Exposition held in London in that year." However, although
acronymic words seem not to have been employed in general vocabulary
before the 20th century (as Wilton points out), the concept of their
formation is treated as effortlessly understood (and evidently not
novel) in a Poe story of the 1830s, "How to Write a Blackwood
Article", which includes the contrived acronym
Early examples in English
The use of Latin and Neo-Latin terms in vernaculars has been
pan-European and predates modern English. Some examples of acronyms in
this class are:
A.M. (from Latin ante meridiem, "before noon") and P.M. (from Latin
post meridiem, "after noon")
A.D. (from Latin Anno Domini, "in the year of our Lord"), whose
complement in English, B.C. [Before Christ], is English-sourced
O.K., a term of disputed origin, dating back at least to the early
19th century, now used around the world
The earliest example of a word derived from an acronym listed by the
OED is "abjud" (now "abjad"), formed from the original first four
letters of the
Arabic alphabet in the late 18th century. Some
acrostics predate this, however, such as the Restoration witticism
arranging the names of some members of Charles II's Committee for
Foreign Affairs to produce the "CABAL" ministry.
Acronyms are used most often to abbreviate names of organizations and
long or frequently referenced terms. The armed forces and government
agencies frequently employ acronyms; some well-known examples from the
United States are among the "alphabet agencies" (also jokingly
referred to as "alphabet soup") created by
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt (also
of course known as FDR) under the New Deal. Business and industry also
are prolific coiners of acronyms. The rapid advance of science and
technology in recent centuries seems to be an underlying force driving
the usage, as new inventions and concepts with multiword names create
a demand for shorter, more manageable names. One
representative example, from the U.S. Navy, is COMCRUDESPAC, which
stands for commander, cruisers destroyers Pacific; it's also seen as
"ComCruDesPac". "YABA-compatible" (where YABA stands for "yet another
bloody acronym") is used to mean that a term's acronym can be
pronounced but is not an offensive word, e.g., "When choosing a new
name, be sure it is 'YABA-compatible'."
Acronym use has been further popularized by text messaging on mobile
phones with Short Message Systems (SMS). To fit messages into the
160-character SMS limit, acronyms such as "GF" (girlfriend), "LOL"
(laughing out loud), and "DL" (download or down low) have become
popular. Some prescriptivists disdain texting acronyms and
abbreviations as decreasing clarity, or as failure to use "pure" or
"proper" English. Others point out that language change has happened
for thousands of years, and argue that it should be embraced as
inevitable, or as innovation that adapts the language to changing
circumstances. In this view, the modern practice is just as legitimate
as those in "proper" English of the current generation of speakers,
such as the abbreviation of corporation names in places with limited
writing space (e.g., ticker tape, newspaper column inches).
Aids to learning the expansion without leaving a document
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In formal writing for a broad audience, the expansion is typically
given at the first occurrence of the acronym within a given text, for
the benefit of those readers who do not know what it stands for. The
capitalization of the original term is independent of it being
acronymized, being lowercase for a common noun such as frequently
asked questions (FAQ) but uppercase for a proper noun such as the
United Nations (UN) (as explained at Case > Casing of expansions).
In addition to expansion at first use, some publications also have a
key listing all acronyms used therein and what their expansions are.
This is a convenience to readers for two reasons. The first is that if
they are not reading the entire publication sequentially (which is a
common mode of reading), then they may encounter an acronym without
having seen its expansion. Having a key at the start or end of the
publication obviates skimming over the text searching for an earlier
use to find the expansion. (This is especially important in the print
medium, where no search utility. is available.) The second reason for
the key feature is its pedagogical value in educational works such as
textbooks. It gives students a way to review the meanings of the
acronyms introduced in a chapter after they have done the line-by-line
reading, and also a way to quiz themselves on the meanings (by
covering up the expansion column and recalling the expansions from
memory, then checking their answers by uncovering.) In addition, this
feature enables readers possessing knowledge of the abbreviations not
to have to encounter expansions (redundant to such readers).
Expansion at first use and the abbreviation-key feature are aids to
the reader that originated in the print era, and they are equally
useful in print and online. In addition, the online medium offers yet
more aids, such as tooltips, hyperlinks, and rapid search via search
Acronyms often occur in jargon. An acronym may have different meanings
in different areas of industry, writing, and scholarship. The general
reason for this is convenience and succinctness for specialists,
although it has led some to obfuscate the meaning either
intentionally, to deter those without such domain-specific knowledge,
or unintentionally, by creating an acronym that already existed.
The medical literature has been struggling to control the
proliferation of acronyms as their use has evolved from aiding
communication to hindering it. This has become such a problem that it
is even evaluated at the level of medical academies such as the
American Academy of Dermatology. 
Acronyms are often taught as mnemonic devices, for example in physics
the colors of the visible spectrum are ROY G. BIV
(red-orange-yellow-green-blue-indigo-violet). They are also used as
mental checklists, for example in aviation: GUMPS, which is
Gas-Undercarriage-Mixture-Propeller-Seatbelts. Other examples of
mnemonic acronyms include CAN SLIM, and
PAVPANIC as well as PEMDAS.
Acronyms as legendary etymology
See also: Backronym
It is not uncommon for acronyms to be cited in a kind of false
etymology, called a folk etymology, for a word. Such etymologies
persist in popular culture but have no factual basis in historical
linguistics, and are examples of language-related urban legends. For
example, cop is commonly cited as being derived, it is presumed, from
"constable on patrol," and posh from "port out, starboard
home". With some of these specious expansions, the "belief" that
the etymology is acronymic has clearly been tongue-in-cheek among many
citers, as with "gentlemen only, ladies forbidden" for golf, although
many other (more credulous) people have uncritically taken it for
fact. Taboo words in particular commonly have such false
etymologies: shit from "ship/store high in transit" or
"special high-intensity training" and fuck from "for unlawful carnal
knowledge", or "fornication under consent/command of the king".
Showing the ellipsis of letters
In English, abbreviations have traditionally been written with a full
stop/period/point in place of the deleted part to show the ellipsis of
letters – although the colon and apostrophe have also had this role
– and with a space after full stops (e.g. "A. D."). In the case
of most acronyms, each letter is an abbreviation of a separate word
and, in theory, should get its own termination mark. Such punctuation
is diminishing with the belief that the presence of all-capital
letters is sufficient to indicate that the word is an
Some influential style guides, such as that of the BBC, no longer
require punctuation to show ellipsis; some even proscribe it. Larry
Trask, American author of The Penguin Guide to Punctuation, states
categorically that, in British English, "this tiresome and unnecessary
practice is now obsolete".
Pronunciation-dependent style and periods
Nevertheless, some influential style guides, many of them American,
still require periods in certain instances. For example, The New York
Times' guide recommends following each segment with a period when the
letters are pronounced individually, as in K.G.B., but not when
pronounced as a word, as in NATO. The logic of this style is that
the pronunciation is reflected graphically by the punctuation scheme.
When a multiple-letter abbreviation is formed from a single word,
periods are in general not used, although they may be common in
informal usage. TV, for example, may stand for a single word
(television or transvestite, for instance), and is in general spelled
without punctuation (except in the plural). Although PS stands for the
single word postscript (or the Latin postscriptum), it is often
spelled with periods (P.S.).
The slash ('/', or solidus) is sometimes used to separate the letters
in a two-letter acronym, as in N/A (not applicable, not available),
c/o (care of) and w/o (without).
Inconveniently long words used frequently in related contexts can be
represented according to their letter count. For example, i18n
abbreviates internationalization, a computer-science term for adapting
software for worldwide use. The 18 represents the 18 letters that come
between the first and the last in internationalization. Localization
can be abbreviated l10n, multilingualization m17n, and accessibility
a11y. In addition to the use of a specific number replacing that many
letters, the more general "x" can be used to replace an unspecified
number of letters. Examples include Crxn for crystallization and the
series familiar to physicians for history, diagnosis, and treatment
(hx, dx, tx).
Representing plurals and possessives
There is a question about how to pluralize acronyms. Often a writer
will add an 's' following an apostrophe, as in "PC's". However, Kate
Turabian, writing about style in academic writings, allows for an
apostrophe to form plural acronyms "only when an abbreviation contains
internal periods or both capital and lowercase letters". Turabian
would therefore prefer "DVDs" and "URLs" and "Ph.D.'s". The Modern
Language Association and American Psychological
Association prohibit apostrophes from being used to pluralize
acronyms regardless of periods (so "compact discs" would be "CDs" or
"C.D.s"), whereas the
New York Times
New York Times style guide requires an
apostrophe when pluralizing all abbreviations regardless of periods
(preferring "PC's, TV's and VCR's").
Possessive plurals that also include apostrophes for mere
pluralization and periods appear especially complex: for example, the
C.D.'s' labels (the labels of the compact discs). In some instances,
however, an apostrophe may increase clarity: for example, if the final
letter of an abbreviation is S, as in SOS's (although abbreviations
ending with S can also take -es, e.g. SOSes), or when pluralizing an
abbreviation that has periods.
A particularly rich source of options arises when the plural of an
acronym would normally be indicated in a word other than the final
word if spelled out in full. A classic example is Member of
Parliament, which in plural is Members of Parliament. It is possible
then to abbreviate this as M's P. (or similar), as used by
former Australian Prime Minister Ben Chifley. This usage
is less common than forms with s at the end, such as MPs, and may
appear dated or pedantic. In common usage, therefore, weapons of mass
destruction becomes WMDs, prisoners of war becomes POWs, and runs
batted in becomes RBIs.
The argument that acronyms should have no different plural form (for
example, "If D can stand for disc, it can also stand for discs") is in
general disregarded because of the practicality in distinguishing
singulars and plurals. This is not the case, however, when the
abbreviation is understood to describe a plural noun already: For
example, U.S. is short for United States, but not United State. In
this case, the options for making a possessive form of an abbreviation
that is already in its plural form without a final s may seem awkward:
for example, U.S., U.S.'s, etc. In such instances, possessive
abbreviations are often foregone in favor of simple attributive usage
(for example, the U.S. economy) or expanding the abbreviation to its
full form and then making the possessive (for example, the United
States' economy). On the other hand, in speech, the pronunciation
United States's sometimes is used.
Abbreviations that come from single, rather than multiple,
words—such as TV (television)—are usually pluralized without
apostrophes (two TVs); most writers feel that the apostrophe should be
reserved for the possessive (the TV's antenna).
In some languages, the convention of doubling the letters in the
acronym is used to indicate plural words: for example, the Spanish EE.
UU., for Estados Unidos ('United States'). This old convention is
still followed for a limited number of English abbreviations, such as
SS. for "Saints", pp. for the Latin plural of "pages", paginae, or MSS
for "manuscripts". In the case of pp. it derives from the original
Latin phrase per procurationem meaning 'through the agency of'; an
English translation alternative is particular pages in a book or
document: see pp 8-88. .
Further information: English possessive
The most common capitalization scheme seen with acronyms is
all-uppercase (all-caps), except for those few that have
linguistically taken on an identity as regular words, with the
acronymous etymology of the words fading into the background of common
knowledge, such as has occurred with the words scuba, laser, and
radar—these are known as anacronyms. Anacronyms (note well
-acro-) should not be homophonously confused with anachronyms (note
well -chron-), which are a type of misnomer.
Small caps are sometimes used to make the run of capital letters seem
less jarring to the reader. For example, the style of some American
publications, including the
Atlantic Monthly and USA Today, is to use
small caps for acronyms longer than three letters;
thus "U.S." and "FDR" in normal caps, but "nato" in small caps. The
acronyms "AD" and "BC" are often smallcapped as well, as in: "From
4004 bc to ad 525".
Words derived from an acronym by affixing are typically expressed in
mixed case, so the root acronym is clear. For example, pre-WWII
NATO world, DNAase. In some cases a derived acronym may
also be expressed in mixed case. For example, messenger RNA and
transfer RNA become mRNA and tRNA.
Pronunciation-dependent style and case
Some publications choose to capitalize only the first letter of
acronyms, reserving all-caps styling for initialisms, writing the
pronounced acronyms "Nato" and "Aids" in mixed case, but the
initialisms "USA" and "FBI" in all caps. For example, this is the
style used in The Guardian, and
BBC News typically edits to this
style (though its official style guide, dating from 2003, still
recommends all-caps). The logic of this style is that the
pronunciation is reflected graphically by the capitalization scheme.
Some style manuals also base the letters' case on their number. The
New York Times, for example, keeps
NATO in all capitals (while several
guides in the British press may render it Nato), but uses lower case
in UNICEF (from "United Nations International Children's Emergency
Fund") because it is more than four letters, and to style it in caps
might look ungainly (flirting with the appearance of "shouting
Numerals and constituent words
While abbreviations typically exclude the initials of short function
words (such as "and", "or", "of", or "to"), this is not always the
case. (A similar set of words is sometimes left as lowercase in
headers and publication titles.) Sometimes function words are included
to make a pronounceable acronym, such as CORE (Congress of Racial
Equality). Sometimes the letters representing these words are written
in lower case, such as in the cases of TfL (Transport for London) and
LotR (Lord of the Rings); this usually occurs when the acronym
represents a multi-word proper noun.
Numbers (both cardinal and ordinal) in names are often represented by
digits rather than initial letters: as in 4GL (Fourth generation
language) or G77 (Group of 77). Large numbers may use metric prefixes,
Y2K for "Year 2000" (sometimes written Y2k, because the SI
symbol for 1000 is k—not K, which stands for kelvin). Exceptions
using initials for numbers include TLA (three-letter
acronym/abbreviation) and GoF (Gang of Four). Abbreviations using
numbers for other purposes include repetitions, such as
Wide Web Consortium") and T3 (Trends, Tips & Tools for Everyday
Living); pronunciation, such as B2B ("business to business"); and
numeronyms, such as i18n ("internationalization"; 18 represents the 18
letters between the initial i and the final n).
Casing of expansions
Although many authors of expository writing show a predisposition to
capitalizing the initials of the expansion for pedagogical emphasis
(trying to thrust the reader's attention toward where the letters are
coming from), this sometimes conflicts with the convention of English
orthography, which reserves capitals in the middle of sentences for
proper nouns. Enforcing the general convention, most professional
editors case-fold such expansions to their standard
orthography when editing manuscripts for publication. The
justification is that (1) readers are smart enough to figure out where
the letters came from, even without their being capitalized for
emphasis, and that (2) common nouns do not take capital initials in
standard English orthography. Such house styles also usually disfavor
bold or italic font for the initial letters. For
example, "the onset of Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)" or "the onset
of congestive heart failure (CHF)" if found in an unpublished
manuscript would be rewritten as "the onset of congestive heart
failure (CHF)" in the final published article when following the AMA
Manual of Style.
Changes to (or word play on) the expanded meaning
Some apparent acronyms or other abbreviations do not stand for
anything and cannot be expanded to some meaning. Such pseudo-acronyms
may be pronunciation-based, such as
BBQ (bee-bee-cue), for "barbecue",
or K9 (kay-nine) for "canine". Pseudo-acronyms also frequently develop
as "orphan initialisms"; an existing acronym is redefined as a
non-acronymous name, severing its link to its previous
meaning. For example, the letters of the SAT, a US college
entrance test originally dubbed "Scholastic Aptitude Test", no longer
officially stand for anything.
This is common with companies that want to retain brand recognition
while moving away from an outdated image: American Telephone and
Telegraph became AT&T,
Kentucky Fried Chicken
Kentucky Fried Chicken became
de-emphasize the role of frying in the preparation of its signature
dishes,[a] and British Petroleum became BP. Russia Today
has rebranded itself as RT. Genzyme Transgenics
Corporation became GTC
Biotherapeutics, Inc. in order to reduce perceived corporate risk of
sabotage/vandalism by Luddite activists.
Pseudo-acronyms may have advantages in international
markets:[according to whom?] for example, some national affiliates of
International Business Machines
International Business Machines are legally incorporated as "IBM" (for
example, "IBM Canada") to avoid translating the full name into local
languages. Likewise, "UBS" is the name of the merged
Union Bank of Switzerland
Union Bank of Switzerland and Swiss Bank Corporation, and "HSBC"
has replaced "The Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation."
Sometimes,[when?] companies whose original name gives a clear
indication of their place of origin will use acronyms when expanding
to foreign markets – for example,
Toronto-Dominion Bank continues to
operate under the full name in Canada, but its U.S. subsidiary is
known as TD Bank, just as
Royal Bank of Canada
Royal Bank of Canada used
its full name in Canada (a constitutional monarchy), but its
now-defunct U.S. subsidiary was called RBC Bank.
Redundant acronyms and RAS syndrome
Main article: RAS syndrome
Rebranding can lead to redundant acronym syndrome,[original research?]
Trustee Savings Bank
Trustee Savings Bank became TSB Bank, or when
Railway Express Agency
Railway Express Agency became REA Express. A
few[vague] high-tech companies have taken the redundant acronym to the
extreme[according to whom?]: for example, ISM Information Systems
Management Corp. and SHL Systemhouse Ltd. Examples in
entertainment include the television shows CSI: Crime Scene
Investigation and Navy: NCIS ("Navy" was dropped in
the second season), where the redundancy was likely[weasel words]
designed to educate new viewers as to what the initials stood
for. The same reasoning[according to whom?] was in
evidence when the Royal Bank of Canada's Canadian operations rebranded
to RBC Royal Bank, or when
Bank of Montreal
Bank of Montreal rebranded
their retail banking subsidiary BMO Bank of Montreal.
Another common example[according to whom?] is "RAM memory", which is
redundant because "RAM" ("random-access memory") includes the initial
of the word "memory". "PIN" stands for "personal
identification number", obviating the second word in "PIN
number"; in this case its retention may be motivated
to avoid ambiguity with the homophonous word "pin".[original
research?] Other examples include "ATM machine," "EAB bank," "CableACE
Award," "DC Comics," "
HIV virus," Microsoft's NT Technology, and the
formerly redundant "
SAT test," now simply "
Test"). TNN (The Nashville/National Network) also
renamed itself "The New TNN" for a brief interlude.
Sometimes, the initials continue to stand for an expanded meaning, but
the original meaning is simply replaced. Some examples:
DVD was originally an acronym of the unofficial term digital video
disc, but is now stated by the
DVD Forum as standing for Digital
GAO changed the full form of its name from General Accounting Office
to Government Accountability Office.
GPO (in the United States) changed the full form of its name from
Government Printing Office to Government Publishing Office.
RAID used to mean Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks, but is now
commonly interpreted as Redundant Array of Independent Disks.
WWF originally stood for World Wildlife Fund, but now stands for
Worldwide Fund for Nature
Worldwide Fund for Nature (although the former name is still used in
Canada and the United States).
The UICC, whose initials came from the Romance-language versions of
its name (such as French Union Internationale Contre le Cancer,
"International Union Against Cancer"), changed the English expansion
of its name to
Union for International Cancer Control
Union for International Cancer Control (from
International Union Against Cancer) so that the English expansion,
too, would correspond to the UICC initials.
Main article: Backronym
A backronym (or bacronym) is a phrase that is constructed "after the
fact" from a previously existing word. For example, the novelist and
Anthony Burgess once proposed that the word "book" ought to
stand for "Box Of Organized Knowledge." A classic real-world
example of this is the name of the predecessor to the Apple Macintosh,
The Apple Lisa, which was said to refer to "Local Integrated Software
Architecture", but was actually named after Steve Jobs' daughter, born
Backronyms are often times used to comedic effect. An example of the
creation of a backronym for comedic effect would be in the naming of a
group or organization, the name A.C.R.O.N.Y.M stands for (among other
things) "A Clever Regiment Of Nerdy Young Men".
Acronyms are sometimes contrived, that is, deliberately designed to be
especially apt for the thing being named (by having a dual meaning or
by borrowing the positive connotations of an existing word). Some
examples of contrived acronyms are USA PATRIOT, CAN SPAM,
ACT UP. The clothing company French Connection began
referring to itself as fcuk, standing for "French Connection United
Kingdom." The company then created T-shirts and several advertising
campaigns that exploit the acronym's similarity to the taboo word
The US Department of Defense's Defense Advanced Research Projects
Agency (DARPA) is known for developing contrived acronyms to name
projects, including RESURRECT, NIRVANA, and DUDE. In July 2010, Wired
Magazine reported that
DARPA announced programs to "..transform
biology from a descriptive to a predictive field of science" named
BATMAN and ROBIN for Biochronicity and Temporal Mechanisms Arising in
Nature and Robustness of Biologically-Inspired Networks, a
reference to the
Batman and Robin comic-book superheroes.
The short-form names of clinical trials and other scientific studies
constitute a large class of acronyms that includes many contrived
examples, as well as many with a partial rather than complete
correspondence of letters to expansion components. These trials tend
to have full names that are accurately descriptive of what the trial
is about but are thus also too long to serve practically as names
within the syntax of a sentence, so a short name is also developed,
which can serve as a syntactically useful handle and also provide at
least a degree of mnemonic reminder as to the full name. Examples
widely known in medicine include the ALLHAT trial (Antihypertensive
and Lipid-Lowering Treatment to Prevent Heart Attack Trial) and the
CHARM trial (Candesartan in Heart Failure: Assessment of Reduction in
Mortality and Morbidity). The fact that
RAS syndrome is often
involved, as well as that the letters often don't entirely match, have
sometimes been pointed out by annoyed researchers preoccupied by the
idea that because the achetypal form of acronyms originated with
one-to-one letter matching, there must be some moral impropriety in
their ever deviating from that form. However, the raison d'être of
clinical trial acronyms, as with gene and protein symbols, is simply
to have a syntactically usable and recallable short name to complement
the long name that is often syntactically unusable and not memorized.
It is useful for the short name to give a reminder of the long name,
which supports the reasonable censure of "cutesy" examples that
provide little to no hint of it. But beyond that reasonably close
correspondence, the short name's chief utility is in functioning
cognitively as a name, rather than being a cryptic and forgettable
string, albeit faithful to the matching of letters. However, other
reasonable critiques have been (1) that it is irresponsible to mention
trial acronyms without explaining them at least once by providing the
long names somewhere in the document, and (2) that the
proliferation of trial acronyms has resulted in ambiguity, such as 3
different trials all called ASPECT, which is another reason why
failing to explain them somewhere in the document is irresponsible in
scientific communication. At least one study has evaluated the
citation impact and other traits of acronym-named trials compared with
others, finding both good aspects (mnemonic help, name recall) and
potential flaws (connotatively driven bias).
Some acronyms are chosen deliberately to avoid a name considered
undesirable: For example,
Verliebt in Berlin
Verliebt in Berlin (ViB), a German
telenovela, was first intended to be Alles nur aus Liebe (All for
Love), but was changed to avoid the resultant acronym ANAL. Likewise,
the Computer Literacy and Internet Technology qualification is known
as CLaIT, rather than CLIT. In Canada, the Canadian Conservative
Reform Alliance (Party) was quickly renamed to the Canadian Reform
Conservative Alliance when its opponents pointed out that its initials
spelled CCRAP (pronounced "see crap"). (The satirical magazine Frank
had proposed alternatives to CCRAP, namely SSHIT and NSDAP.) Two Irish
Institutes of Technology (Galway and Tralee) chose different acronyms
from other institutes when they were upgraded from Regional Technical
colleges. Tralee RTC became the Institute of Technology Tralee (ITT),
as opposed to Tralee Institute of Technology (TIT). Galway RTC became
Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT), as opposed to Galway
Institute of Technology (GIT). The charity sports organization Team in
Training is known as "TNT" and not "TIT". Technological Institute of
Textile & Sciences is still known as TITS. George Mason University
was planning to name their law school the
Antonin Scalia School of Law
(ASSOL) in honor of the late Antonin Scalia, only to change it to the
Antonin Scalia Law School later.
A macronym, or nested acronym, is an acronym in which one or more
letters stand for acronyms themselves. The word "macronym" is a
portmanteau of "macro-" and "acronym".
Some examples of macronyms are:
XHR stands for "
HTTP Request", in which
XML is "eXtensible Markup
HTTP stands for "HyperText Transfer Protocol".
POWER stands for Performance Optimization With Enhanced RISC, in which
RISC stands for Reduced Instruction Set Computing.
VHDL stands for "
VHSIC Hardware Description Language", in which VHSIC
stands for "Very High Speed Integrated Circuit".
XSD stands for "
XML Schema Definition", in which
XML stands for
"eXtensible Markup Language".
SECS stands for "
SEMI equipment communication standard", in which SEMI
stands for "Semiconductor equipment manufacturing industries".
AIM stands for "
AOL Instant Messenger", in which
AOL stands for
HASP stood for Houston Automatic
Spooling Priority, but spooling
itself was an acronym – simultaneous peripheral operations
Some macronyms can be multiply nested: the second-order acronym points
to another one further down a hierarchy. In an informal competition
run by the magazine New Scientist, a fully documented specimen was
discovered that may be the most deeply nested of all: RARS is the
"Regional ATOVS Retransmission Service"; ATOVS is "Advanced TOVS";
TOVS is "
TIROS operational vertical sounder"; and
TIROS is "Television
infrared observational satellite". Fully expanded, "RARS" might
thus become "Regional Advanced Television Infrared Observational
Satellite Operational Vertical Sounder Retransmission Service".
However, to say that "RARS" stands directly for that string of words,
or can be interchanged with it in syntax (in the same way that "CHF"
can be usefully interchanged with "congestive heart failure"), is a
prescriptive misapprehension rather than a linguistically accurate
description; the true nature of such a term is closer to anacronymic
than to being interchangeable like simpler acronyms are. The latter
are fully reducible in an attempt to "spell everything out and avoid
all abbreviations," but the former are irreducible in that respect;
they can be annotated with parenthetical explanations, but they cannot
be eliminated from speech or writing in any useful or practical way.
Just as the words laser and radar function as words in syntax and
cognition without a need to focus on their acronymic origins, terms
such as "RARS" and "CHA2DS2–VASc score" are irreducible in natural
language; if they are purged, the form of language that is left may
conform to some imposed rule, but it cannot be described as remaining
natural. Similarly, protein and gene nomenclature, which uses symbols
extensively, includes such terms as the name of the NACHT protein
domain, which reflects the symbols of some proteins that contain the
domain—NAIP (NLR family apoptosis inhibitor protein), C2TA (major
histocompatibility complex class II transcription activator), HET-E
(incompatibility locus protein from Podospora anserine), and TP1
(telomerase-associated protein)—but is not syntactically reducible
to them. The name is thus itself more symbol than acronym, and its
expansion cannot replace it while preserving its function in natural
syntax as a name within a clause clearly parsable by human readers or
Main article: Recursive acronym
A special type of macronym, the recursive acronym, has letters whose
expansion refers back to the macronym itself. One of the earliest
examples appears in
The Hacker's Dictionary as MUNG, which stands for
"MUNG Until No Good".
Some examples of recursive acronyms are:
GNU stands for "GNU's Not Unix"
LAME stands for "
LAME Ain't an MP3 Encoder"
PHP stands for "PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor"
WINE stands for "WINE Is Not an Emulator"
HURD stands for "HIRD of Unix-replacing daemons", where HIRD itself
stands for "HURD of interfaces representing depth" (a "mutually
In English language discussions of languages with syllabic or
logographic writing systems (such as Chinese, Japanese, and Korean),
"acronyms" describe the short forms that take selected characters from
a multi-character word.
For example, in Chinese, "university" (大學/大学, literally "great
learning") is usually abbreviated simply as 大 ("great") when used
with the name of the institute. So
Peking University (北京大学) is
commonly shortened to 北大 (lit. "north-great") by also only taking
the first character of Peking, the "northern capital" (北京;
Beijing). In some cases, however, other characters than the first can
be selected. For example, the local short form of Hong Kong University
(香港大學) uses Kong (港大) rather than Hong.
There are also cases where some longer phrases are abbreviated
drastically, especially in Chinese politics, where proper nouns were
initially translated from Soviet Leninist terms. For instance, the
full name of China's highest ruling council, the Politburo Standing
Committee (PSC), is "Standing Committee of the Central Political
Bureau of the Communist Party of China"
(中国共产党中央政治局常务委员会). The term then reduced
the "Communist Party of China" part of its name through acronyms, then
the "Standing Committee" part, again through acronyms, to create
"中共中央政治局常委". Alternatively, it omitted the
"Communist Party" part altogether, creating "Politburo Standing
Committee" (政治局常委会), and eventually just "Standing
Committee" (常委会). The PSC's members full designations are
"Member of the Standing Committee of the Central Political Bureau of
the Communist Party of China"
(中国共产党中央政治局常务委员会委员); this was
eventually drastically reduced to simply Changwei (常委), with the
term Ruchang (入常) used increasingly for officials destined for a
future seat on the PSC. In another example, the word
"全国人民代表大会" (National People's Congress) can be broken
into four parts: "全国" = "the whole nation", "人民" = "people",
"代表" = "representatives", "大会" = "conference". Yet, in its
short form "人大" (literally "man/people big"), only the first
characters from the second and the fourth parts are selected; the
first part ("全国") and the third part ("代表") are simply
ignored. In describing such abbreviations, the term initialism is
Many proper nouns become shorter and shorter over time. For example,
the CCTV New Year's Gala, whose full name is literally read as "China
Central Television Spring Festival Joint Celebration Evening Gala"
(中国中央电视台春节联欢晚会) was first shortened to
"Spring Festival Joint Celebration Evening Gala" (春节联欢晚会),
but eventually referred to as simply Chunwan (春晚). Along the same
vein, Zhongguo Zhongyang Dianshi Tai (中国中央电视台) was
reduced to Yangshi (央视) in the mid-2000s.
Many aspects of academics in Korea follow similar acronym patterns as
Chinese, owing to the languages' commonalities, like using the word
for "big" or "great" i.e. dae (대), to refer to universities (대학;
daehak, literally "great learning" although "big school" is an
acceptable alternate). They can be interpreted similar to American
university appellations, such as "UPenn" or "Texas Tech."
Some acronyms are shortened forms of the school's name, like how
Hongik University (홍익대학교, Hongik Daehakgyo) is shortened to
Hongdae (홍대, "Hong, the big [school]" or "Hong-U") Other acronyms
can refer to the university's main subject, e.g. Korea National
University of Education (한국교원대학교, Hanguk Gyowon
Daehakgyo) is shortened to Gyowondae (교원대, "Big Ed." or
"Ed.-U"). Other schools use a Koreanized version of their English
acronym. The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology
(한국과학기술원, Hanguk Gwahak Gisulwon) is referred to as
KAIST (카이스트, Kaiseuteu) in both English and Korean. The 3 most
prestigious schools in Korea are known as SKY (스카이, seukai),
combining the first letter of their English names (Seoul National,
Korea, and Yonsei Universities). In addition, the College Scholastic
Ability Test (대학수학능력시험, Daehak Suhang Neungryeok
Siheom) is shortened to Suneung (수능, "S.A.").
Main article: Japanese abbreviated and contracted words
Japanese language makes extensive use of abbreviations, but only
some of these are acronyms.
Chinese-based words (Sino-Japanese vocabulary) uses similar acronym
formation to Chinese, like Tōdai (東大) for Tōkyō Daigaku
(東京大学, Tokyo University). In some cases alternative
pronunciations are used, as in Saikyō for 埼京, from Saitama +
Tōkyo (埼玉＋東京), rather than Saitō.
Non-Chinese foreign borrowings (gairaigo) are instead frequently
abbreviated as clipped compounds, rather than acronyms, using several
initial sounds. This is visible in katakana transcriptions of foreign
words, but is also found with native words (written in hiragana). For
Pokémon media franchise's name originally stood for
"pocket monsters" (ポケット·モンスター → ポケモン),
which is still the long-form of the name in Japanese, and "wāpuro"
stands for "word processor" (ワード·プロセッサー →
To a greater degree than English does, German tends toward acronyms
that use initial syllables rather than initial single letters,
although it uses many of the latter type as well. Some examples of the
syllabic type are
Gestapo rather than GSP (for Geheime Staatspolizei,
'secret state police'); Flak rather than FAK (for Fliegerabwehrkanone,
anti-aircraft gun); Kripo rather than KP (for Kriminalpolizei,
detective division police). The extension of such contraction to a
pervasive or whimsical degree has been mockingly labeled Aküfi (for
Abkürzungsfimmel, strange habit of abbreviating). Examples of Aküfi
include Vokuhila (for vorne kurz, hinten lang, short in the front,
long in the back, i.e., a mullet) and the mocking of Adolf Hitler's
Gröfaz (Größter Feldherr aller Zeiten, Greatest General of
Main article: Hebrew acronyms
It is common to take more than just one initial letter from each of
the words composing the acronym; regardless of this, the abbreviation
sign gershayim ⟨״⟩ is always written between the second-last and
last letters of the non-inflected form of the acronym, even if by this
it separates letters of the same original word. Examples (keep in mind
Hebrew reads right-to-left): ארה״ב (for ארצות
הברית, the United States); ברה״מ (for ברית
המועצות, the Soviet Union); ראשל״צ (for ראשון
לציון, Rishon LeZion); ביה״ס (for בית הספר,
the school). An example that takes only the initial letters from its
component words is צה״ל (Tzahal, for צבא הגנה
לישראל, Israel Defense Forces). In inflected forms the
abbreviation sign gershayim remains between the second-last and last
letters of the non-inflected form of the acronym (e.g. "report",
singular: דו״ח, plural: דו״חות; "squad commander",
masculine: מ״כ, feminine: מ״כית).
See also: List of Indonesian acronyms and abbreviations
There is also a widespread use of acronyms in
Indonesia in every
aspect of social life. For example, the
Golkar political party stands
for Partai Golongan Karya,
Monas stands for "Monumen Nasional"
(National Monument), the Angkot public transport stands for "Angkutan
Kota" (city public transportation), warnet stands for "warung
internet" (internet cafe), and many others. Some acronyms are
considered formal (or officially adopted), while many more are
considered informal, slang or colloquial.
The capital's metropolitan area (
Jakarta and its surrounding satellite
regions), Jabodetabek, is another infamous acronym. This stands for
Jakarta-Bogor-Depok-Tangerang-Bekasi. Many highways are also named by
the acronym method; e.g. Jalan Tol (Toll Road) Jagorawi
(Jakarta-Bogor-Ciawi) and Purbaleunyi (Purwakarta-Bandung-Cileunyi),
Joglo Semar (Jogja-solo-semarang).
In some languages, especially those that use certain alphabets, many
acronyms come from the governmental use, particularly in the military
and law enforcement services. The
Indonesian military (TNI—Tentara
Nasional Indonesia) and
Indonesian police (POLRI—Kepolisian Republik
Indonesia) are infamous for heavy acronyms use. Examples include the
Kopassus (Komando Pasukan Khusus;
Special Forces Command), Kopaska
(Komando Pasukan Katak;
Frogmen Command), Kodim (Komando Distrik
Military District Command—one of the Indonesian army's
administrative divisions), Serka (Sersan Kepala; Head Sergeant), Akmil
Military Academy—in Magelang) and many other terms
regarding ranks, units, divisions, procedures, etc.
Heavy acronym use by Indonesians, makes it difficult for foreigners
and learners of Bahasa
Indonesia to seek information and news in
Indonesian media.
Acronyms that use parts of words (not necessarily syllables) are
commonplace in Russian as well, e.g. Газпром (Gazprom), for
Газовая промышленность (Gazovaya promyshlennost,
gas industry). There are also initialisms, such as СМИ (SMI, for
средства массовой информации sredstva
massovoy informatsii, means of mass informing, i.e. mass media).
Another Russian acronym, ГУЛаг (GULag) combines two initials and
three letters of the final word: it stands for Главное
управление лагерей (Glavnoe upravlenie lagerey, Chief
Administration of Camps).
OTMA was an acronym sometimes used by the daughters of
Nicholas II of Russia
Nicholas II of Russia and his consort, Alexandra Feodorovna,
as a group nickname for themselves, built from the first letter of
each girl's name in the order of their births : Olga, Tatiana,
Maria and Anastasia.
In Swahili, acronyms are common for naming organizations such as TUKI,
which stands for Taasisi ya Uchunguzi wa Kiswahili (the Institute for
Swahili Research). Multiple initial letters (often the initial
syllable of words) are often drawn together, as seen more in some
languages than others.
In Vietnamese, which has an abundance of compound words, initialisms
are very commonly used for both proper and common nouns. Examples
include TP.HCM (Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh, Ho Chi Minh City), THPT
(trung học phổ thông, high school), CLB (câu lạc bộ, club),
CSDL (cơ sở dữ liệu, database), NXB (nhà xuất bản,
publisher), ÔBACE (ông bà anh chị em, a general form of address),
and CTTĐVN (các Thánh tử đạo Việt Nam, Vietnamese Martyrs).
Longer examples include CHXHCNVN (Cộng hòa Xã hội chủ nghĩa
Việt Nam, Socialist Republic of Vietnam) and MTDTGPMNVN (Mặt
trận Dân tộc Giải phóng miền Nam Việt Nam, Viet Cong).
Long initialisms have become widespread in legal contexts in
Vietnam. It is also common for a writer to coin an ad-hoc
initialism for repeated use in an article.
Each letter in an initialism corresponds to one morpheme – that is,
one syllable. When the first letter of a syllable has a tone mark or
other diacritic, the diacritic may be omitted from the initialism, for
example ĐNA or ĐNÁ for Đông Nam Á (Southeast Asia) and LMCA or
LMCÂ for Liên minh châu Âu (European Union). The letter "Ư" is
often replaced by "W" in initialisms to avoid confusion with "U", for
example UBTWMTTQVN or UBTƯMTTQVN for Ủy ban Trung ương Mặt
trận Tổ quốc Việt Nam (Central Committee of the Vietnamese
Initialisms are purely a written convenience, being pronounced the
same way as their expansions. As the names of many Vietnamese letters
are disyllabic, it would be less convenient to pronounce an initialism
by its individual letters. Acronyms pronounced as words are rare in
Vietnamese, occurring when an acronym itself is borrowed from another
language. Examples include SIĐA (pronounced [s̪i˧˧
ˀɗaː˧˧]), a respelling of the French acronym SIDA (AIDS); VOA
(pronounced [vwaː˧˧]), a literal reading of the English
initialism for Voice of America; and
NASA (pronounced [naː˧˧
zaː˧˧]), borrowed directly from the English acronym.
As in Chinese, many compound words can be shortened to the first
syllable when forming a longer word. For example, the term Việt
Cộng is derived from the first syllables of "Việt Nam" (Vietnam)
and "Cộng sản" (communist). This mechanism is limited to
Sino-Vietnamese vocabulary. Unlike with Chinese, such shortened words
are considered portmanteau words or blend words rather than acronyms
or initialisms, because the
Vietnamese alphabet still requires each
component word to be written as more than one character.
General grammatical considerations
In languages where nouns are declined, various methods are used. An
example is Finnish, where a colon is used to separate inflection from
An acronym is pronounced as a word: Nato [nato]—Natoon [natoːn]
"into Nato", Nasalta "from NASA"
An acronym is pronounced as letters: EU [eː uː]—EU:hun [eː
uːhun] "into EU"
An acronym is interpreted as words: EU [euroːpan unioni]—EU:iin
[euroːpan unioniːn] "into EU"
The process above is similar to how, in English, hyphens are used for
clarity when prefixes are added to acronyms, thus pre-
(rather than preNATO).
In languages such as
Scottish Gaelic and Irish, where lenition
(initial consonant mutation) is commonplace, acronyms must also be
modified in situations where case and context dictate it. In the case
of Scottish Gaelic, a lower case "h" is added after the initial
consonant; for example,
BBC Scotland in the genitive case would be
written as BhBC Alba, with the acronym pronounced "VBC". Likewise, the
Gaelic acronym for "television" (gd: telebhisean) is TBh, pronounced
"TV", as in English.
The longest acronym, according to the 1965 edition of Acronyms,
Initialisms and Abbreviations Dictionary, is ADCOMSUBORDCOMPHIBSPAC, a
United States Navy term that stands for "Administrative Command,
Amphibious Forces, Pacific Fleet Subordinate Command." Another term
COMNAVSEACOMBATSYSENGSTA, which stands for "Commander, Naval Sea
Systems Combat Engineering Station" is longer but the word "Combat" is
The world's longest acronym, according to the Guinness Book of World
Records, is NIIOMTPLABOPARMBETZHELBETRABSBOMONIMONKONOTDTEKHSTROMONT
However, this is more precisely a combination acronym/clipped
compound, as multiple initial letters of some constituent words are
used. The 56-letter term (54 in Cyrillic) is from the Concise
Dictionary of Soviet Terminology and means "The laboratory for
shuttering, reinforcement, concrete and ferroconcrete operations for
composite-monolithic and monolithic constructions of the Department of
the Technology of Building-assembly operations of the Scientific
Research Institute of the Organization for building mechanization and
technical aid of the Academy of Building and Architecture of the Union
of Soviet Socialist Republics."
лаборатория операций по армированию
бетона и железобетонных работ по
сооружению сборно-монолитных и
монолитных конструкций отдела
The card-game Magic: The Gathering has a playing card called "Our
Market Research Shows That Players Like Really Long Card Names So We
Made this Card to Have the Absolute Longest Card
Name Ever Elemental",
with text on it saying: "Just call it OMRSTPLRLCNSWMTCTHTALCNEE for
Acronyms in healthcare
Acronyms in the Philippines
Lists of abbreviations
List of abbreviations in photography
List of acronyms
List of fictional espionage organizations
List of Japanese Latin alphabetic abbreviations
RAS syndrome (Redundant
Acronym Syndrome syndrome)
^ This change was also applied to other languages, with Poulet Frit
Kentucky becoming PFK in French Canada.
^ Paris Gazette, by Lion Feuchtwanger; translated (from Exil) by Willa
and Edwin Muir, New York, Viking Press, 1940. Chapter 47, Beasts of
Prey, pp. 665–66:
His first glance at the Paris German News told Wiesener that this new
paper was nothing like the old P.G.. "They can call it the P.G.N. if
they like", he thought, "but that's the only difference. Pee-gee-enn;
what's the word for words like that, made out of initials? My memory
is beginning to fail me. Just the other day there was a technical
expression I couldn't remember. I must be growing old. "P.G. or
P.G.N., it's six of one and half a dozen of the other.... Pee-gee-enn.
It's an acronym, that's what it is. That's what they call words made
up of initials. So I remember it after all; that's at least something.
For "Akronym" used in 1921 or 1922, giving an example of "Agfa" film:
Brockhaus Handbuch des Wissens in vier Bänden. Leipzig, F. A.
Brockhaus, [1922–23, c1921–23] v. 1, p. 37.
^ a b c Merriam-Webster, Inc. Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English
Usage, 1994. ISBN 0-87779-132-5. pp. 21–22:
acronyms A number of commentators (as Copperud 1970, Janis
1984, Howard 1984) believe that acronyms can be differentiated from
other abbreviations in being pronounceable as words. Dictionaries,
however, do not make this distinction because writers in general do
"The powder metallurgy industry has officially adopted the acronym
'P/M Parts'"—Precision Metal Molding, January 1966.
"Users of the term acronym make no distinction between those
pronounced as words ... and those pronounced as a series of
characters" —Jean Praninskas, Trade
Name Creation, 1968.
"It is not J.C.B.'s fault that its name, let alone its acronym, is not
a household word among European scholars"—Times Literary Supp. 5
"... the confusion in the Pentagon about abbreviations and
acronyms—words formed from the first letters of other
words"—Bernard Weinraub, N.Y. Times, 11 December 1978.
Pyles & Algeo 1970 divide acronyms into "initialisms", which
consists of initial letters pronounced with the letter names, and
"word acronyms", which are pronounced as words. Initialism, an older
word than acronym, seems to be too little known to the general public
to serve as the customary term standing in contrast with acronym in a
^ a b "acronym". The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English
(1991), Oxford University Press. p. 12: "a word, usu[ally] pronounced
as such, formed from the initial letters of other words (e.g. Ernie,
^ "acronym" "Cambridge Dictionary of American English", accessed
October 5, 2008: "a word created from the first letters of each word
in a series of words."
^ "acronym" "The American Heritage Dictionary of the English
Language", accessed August 13, 2015: "1. A word formed by combining
the initial letters of a multipart name, such as
NATO from North
Atlantic Treaty Organization or by combining the initial letters or
parts of a series of words, such as radar from radio detecting and
ranging. 2. Usage Problem An initialism. Usage Note: In strict usage,
the term acronym refers to a word made from the initial letters or
parts of other words, such as sonar from so(und) na(vigation and)
r(anging). The distinguishing feature of an acronym is that it is
pronounced as if it were a single word, in the manner of
NASA. Acronyms are often distinguished from initialisms like
NIH, whose individual letters are pronounced as separate syllables.
While observing this distinction has some virtue in precision, it may
be lost on many people, for whom the term acronym refers to both kinds
^ "acronym" "Collins Dictionaries", accessed August 13, 2015: "a
pronounceable name made up of a series of initial letters or parts of
words; for example, UNESCO for the United Nations Educational,
Scientific, and Cultural Organization"
^ "acronym" "Cambridge Dictionaries Online", accessed August 13, 2015:
"an abbreviation consisting of the first letters of each word in the
name of something, pronounced as a word:
AIDS is an acronym for
'Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome'."
^ "acronym" "Cambridge Dictionaries Online", accessed August 13, 2015:
"Acronyms are words which are formed from the first letters of other
words, and which are pronounced as full words."
^ "acronym" "Wordsmyth, the Priemier Educational
Dictionary-Thesaurus", accessed August 13, 2015: "a type of
abbreviation used as a word, formed by combining the initial letters
(or initial parts) of words that make up a particular string. The
pronunciation of an acronym is based on the typical rules of
pronouncing words in a language and is not made up of the sounds of
the names of individual letters.
NASA is an acronym for 'National
Aeronautics and Space Administration.' The abbreviations 'FBI' and
'DVD' are not acronyms, but 'AIDS,' 'FICA,' and 'PIN' are."
^ "acronym" "NetLingo, the Internet Dictionary", accessed August 13,
2015: "Derived from the first letters of a phrase, acronyms are meant
to make the phrase easier to say and remember. With an acronym, the
first letter of each word makes up a new word that is, in fact,
pronounceable (for example, SNAFU is pronounced "sna-foo" and WOMBAT
is pronounced "wahm-bat")."
^ "acronym". Medical Dictionary for the Health Professions and Nursing
(2012). Stedman. "A pronounceable word formed from the initial letters
of each word or selected words in a phrase (e.g., AIDS)".
^ "acronym" "AES Pro Audio Reference", accessed August 13, 2015: "A
word formed from the first letters of a name, such as laser for light
amplification by stimulated emission of radiation, or by combining
initial letters or parts of a series of words, such as radar for radio
detecting and ranging. The requirement of forming a word is what
distinguishes an acronym from an abbreviation (or initialism as it is
also called). Thus modem [modulator-demodulator] is an acronym, and
AES [Audio Engineering Society] is an abbreviation or initialism."
^ "The Correct Use of Acronyms and Initialisms" "Scribendi
Proofreading Services", accessed August 13, 2015: "An acronym is a
word formed from the initial letters of a name or phrase. It is
pronounced as if it were a word. Examples of common acronyms include
"SARS" (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and "UNICEF" (United
Nations International Children's Emergency Fund)"
^ "The Difference Between an
Acronym and an Initialism" "Today I Found
Out", accessed August 13, 2015: "An acronym is a word formed from the
initial letters of a name or phrase. It is pronounced as if it were a
word. Examples of common acronyms include "SARS" (severe acute
respiratory syndrome) and "UNICEF" (United Nations International
Children's Emergency Fund)"
^ a b Crystal, David (1995). "Abbreviation". The Cambridge
Encyclopedia of the English Language, Cambridge University Press.
ISBN 0-521-55985-5. p. 120: Under the heading "Types of
Abbreviation", this article separately lists initialisms and acronyms,
describing the latter as "Initialisms pronounced as single words", but
adds, "However, some linguists do not recognize a sharp distinction
between acronyms and initialisms, but use the former term for both."
^ "The 10 Most Misunderstood Terms in IT" "TechTarget", accessed
August 13, 2015: "An acronym is not any abbreviation, just one that
forms a "sayable" word. Apart from that confusion, acronyms and other
abbreviations cause confusion any time a reader is likely not to know
what the spelled-out version is."
^ "initialism" "Online Etymology Dictionary", accessed August 13,
2015: "initialism (n.) word formed from the first letters of other
words or a phrase, 1957, from initial (n.) + -ism. The distinction
from acronym is not universally agreed-upon; in general, words such as
NATO, where the letters form a word, are regarded as acronyms, those
such as FBI, where the letters sound as letters, are initialisms. The
use of acronym in entries in this dictionary that are technically
initialisms is a deliberate error, because many people only know to
search for all such words under 'acronym.'"
^ "dGuide to the Third Edition of the OED". Oxford English Dictionary.
August 19, 2010. Retrieved December 19, 2012.
^ "acronym." Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, accessed May 2, 2006:
"a word (as NATO, radar, or laser) formed from the initial letter or
letters of each of the successive parts or major parts of a compound
term; also: an abbreviation (as FBI) formed from initial letters: see
^ "acronym". Webster's New Universal Unabridged Dictionary (2003),
Barnes & Noble. ISBN 0-7607-4975-2: "1. a word created from
the first letter or letters of each word in a series of words or a
phrase. 2. a set of initials representing a name, organization, or the
like, with each letter pronounced separately, as
FBI for Federal
Bureau of Investigation."
^ "acronym". American Heritage Dictionary (5th ed.). 2014. Retrieved
April 25, 2013. "Usage Note: ... Acronyms are often
distinguished from initialisms like
FBI and NIH, whose individual
letters are pronounced as separate syllables. While observing this
distinction has some virtue in precision, it may be lost on many
people, for whom the term acronym refers to both kinds of
^ "acronym" Oxford English Dictionary. Ed. J.A. Simpson and E.S.C.
Weiner. 2nd ed. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989. OED Online Oxford
University Press. Accessed May 2, 2006.
^ "Definition of CRT". www.merriam-webster.com.
^ Burchfield, R. W., ed. (2004) . Fowler's Modern English Usage
(Third Revised ed.). Oxford University Press. "acronym", pp. 17–18.
The limitations of the term being not widely known to the general
public, acronym is also often applied to abbreviations that are
familiar but are not pronounceable as words. Thus EC (European
FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation), and VCR
(videocassette recorder). Such terms are also called initialisms.
(ISC)² providing CISSP security accreditation to Interpol computer
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^ Robinson, Paul (2008). "C4ISR". Dictionary of international
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^ "Nooit opgegeven, al 95 jaar doorgezet!" (in Dutch). NAC Breda.
September 19, 2007. Archived from the original on March 26, 2012.
Precies 95 jaar terug smolten NOAD (Nooit Opgeven Altijd Doorzetten)
en Advendo (Aangenaam Door Vermaak en Nuttig Door Ontspanning) samen
in de NOAD-ADVENDO Combinatie, kortom NAC.
^ Dart, James (December 14, 2005). "What is the longest team name in
the world?". The Guardian. London. Retrieved May 19, 2009.
^ "Acronyms (and other forms of abbreviation)," Department of Homeland
Security, 12 Nov 2008
^ a b B. Davenport American Notes and Queries (February 1943) vol 2
page 167 "Your correspondent who asks about words made up of the
initial letters or syllables of other words may be interested in
knowing that I have seen such words called by the name acronym, which
is useful and clear to anyone who knows a little Greek."
^ "Baloney". www.etymonline.com.
^ S. V. Baum (1962) American Speech Vol. 37 No. 1, The Acronym, Pure
^ American Speech (1943) Vol. 18, No. 2, page 142
^ American Speech (1950) Vol. 25 No. 2 page 147
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Word myths: debunking linguistic urban
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acronymophilia in dermatology: effectively avoiding
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Language Myths. Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-101223-4. ;
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^ Kristoff, Nicholas D. (February 7, 2004). "Secret Obsessions at the
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^ Turabian, K., A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and
Dissertations, 7th Edition, subsection 20.1.2
Modern Language Association
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Papers, 7th Edition 2009, subsection 3.2.7.g
^ Publication Manual of the
American Psychological Association
American Psychological Association (APA),
5th Edition 2001, subsection 3.28
^ Publication Manual of the
American Psychological Association
American Psychological Association (APA),
6th Edition 2010, subsection 4.29
^ Siegal, AM., Connolly, WG., The
New York Times
New York Times Manual of Style and
Usage, Three Rivers Press, 1999, p. 24.
^ "Writer's Block – Writing Tips – Plural and Possessive
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^ Robert. "EditFast Grammar Resource: Apostrophes: Forming Plurals".
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^ "Libraries Australia – T.H. McWilliam, Charles Kingsford
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^ "Styleguide". London: Guardian.co.uk. December 19, 2008. Use all
capitals if an abbreviation is pronounced as the individual letters
(an initialism): BBC, CEO, US, VAT, etc; if it is an acronym
(pronounced as a word) spell out with initial capital, eg Nasa, Nato,
Unicef, unless it can be considered to have entered the language as an
everyday word, such as awol, laser and, more recently, asbo, pin
number and sim card. Note that pdf and plc are lowercase.
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^ Iverson, Cheryl, et al. (eds) (2007),
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KFC shuns 'fried' image with
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^ "Từ viết tắt" [Abbreviations] (in Vietnamese).
Retrieved September 4, 2017. Chưa kể cách viết này còn dễ
bị cho là lười biếng hoặc tỏ ra quan trọng, vì đây
là cách chép nguyên xi, máy móc các cụm từ viết tắt
từ văn bản pháp quy của chính quyền, như
TTLT-VKSNDTC-TANDTC, khá phổ biến ở Việt Nam hiện
^ "Our Market Research Shows That Players Like Really Long Card Names
So We Made this Card to Have the Absolute Longest Card
Elemental (Unhinged) - Gatherer - Magic: The Gathering".
Look up acronym, initialism, or alphabetism in Wiktionary, the free
Acronyms at Curlie (ba