Part of the Internet acronyms and lingo glossary:

An initialism is an abbreviation formed from the first letter -- the initial -- of each of the words in a term. 

Initialisms are very common in information technology. API (for application-program interface), BCI (for brain-computer interface) and CAE (for computer-aided engineering) are just a few of the many examples.

The term initialism is often used as a synonym for acronym. However, although initialisms can be acronyms (and vice-versa) there are some abbreviations that belong in just one category or the other.  

Strictly speaking, an acronym can be pronounced as a word. By that definition, GUI (for graphical user interface), which is usually pronounced as gooey, is an acronym as well as an initialism but GPU (for graphics processing unit) is just an initialism. 

Similarly, some acronyms are made from the parts of multiple words rather than initials, which means that they don't qualify as initialisms. 

Although some authorities, including Merriam-Webster, maintain that the terms can be used interchangeably, others insist that they be differentiated.

See Penn and Teller's brief explanation of the difference between initialisms and acronyms:

This was last updated in December 2013
Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

Related Terms

Definitions

  • millennials (millennial generation)

    - Millennials, also known as Generation Y, is a demographic that includes individuals who reached adulthood around the turn of the 21st century. This definition of the term discusses millennials in t... (WhatIs.com)

  • forklift upgrade

    - Forklift upgrade is an idiom used when a major overhaul is required to upgrade IT infrastructure. (SearchNetworking.com)

  • wetware

    - Wetware refers to programmers, developers, systems administrators, cloud and IT architects and other employees that directly affect how servers, applications, networks and the rest of an IT system ... (SearchDataCenter.com)

Glossaries

  • Internet acronyms and lingo

    - Terms related to Internet acronyms and lingo, including slang definitions and jargon about texting, Twitter and other social networking sites.

  • Internet applications

    - This WhatIs.com glossary contains terms related to Internet applications, including definitions about Software as a Service (SaaS) delivery models and words and phrases about web sites, e-commerce ...

Ask a Question. Find an Answer.Powered by ITKnowledgeExchange.com

Ask An IT Question

Get answers from your peers on your most technical challenges

Ask Question

Tech TalkComment

Share
Comments

    Results

    Contribute to the conversation

    All fields are required. Comments will appear at the bottom of the article.