Browse Definitions :
Definition

acronym

Contributor(s): John F. Kohler, Hugh de Glanville

An acronym (pronounced AK-ruh-nihm, from Greek acro- in the sense of extreme or tip and onyma or name) is an abbreviation of several words in such a way that the abbreviation itself forms a pronounceable word. The word may already exist or it can be a new word. Webster's cites snafu and radar, two terms of World War Two vintage, as examples of acronyms that were created.

According to the strictest definition of an acronym, only abbreviations that are pronounced as words qualify. So by these standards, for example, COBOL is an acronym because it's pronounced as a word but WHO (World Health Organization) is not an acronym because the letters in the abbreviation are pronounced individually. However, opinions differ on what constitutes an acronym: Merriam-Webster, for example, says that an acronym is just "a word formed from the initial letters of a multi-word name."

 

Frequently, acronyms are formed that use existing words (and sometimes the acronym is invented first and the phrase name represented is designed to fit the acronym). Here are some examples of acronyms that use existing words:

BASIC (Beginner's All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code)
NOW (National Organization for Women)
OASIS (Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards)
 

Abbreviations that use the first letter of each word in a phrase are sometimes referred to as initialisms. Initialisms can be but are not always acronyms. AT&T, BT, CBS, CNN, IBM, and NBC are initialisms that are not acronyms. Many acronym lists you'll see are really lists of acronyms and initialisms or just lists of abbreviations. (Note that abbreviations include shortened words like "esp." for "especially" as well as shortened phrases.)

Summing up:

  • An abbreviation is a shortening of a word or a phrase.
  • An acronym is an abbreviation that forms a word.
  • An initialism is an abbreviation that uses the first letter of each word in the phrase (thus, some but not all initialisms are acronyms).

Furthermore:

  • An acronym so familiar that no one remembers what it stands for is called an anacronym (For example, few people know that COBOL stands for Common Business Oriented Language.)
  • An acronym in which one of the letters stands for the actual word abbreviated therein is called a recursive acronym. (For example, VISA is said to stand for VISA International Service Association.)
  • An acronym in which the short form was original and words made up to stand for it afterwards is called a backronym. (For example, SOS was originally chosen as a distress signal because it lent itself well to Morse code. Long versions, including Save Our Ship and Save our Souls, came later.)
  • An acronym whose letters spell a word meaningful in the context of the term it stands for is called an apronym. (For example, BASIC, which stands for Beginner's All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code, is a very simple programming language.)
This was last updated in October 2007

Continue Reading About acronym

Start the conversation

Send me notifications when other members comment.

Please create a username to comment.

-ADS BY GOOGLE

File Extensions and File Formats

SearchCompliance

  • risk management

    Risk management is the process of identifying, assessing and controlling threats to an organization's capital and earnings.

  • compliance as a service (CaaS)

    Compliance as a Service (CaaS) is a cloud service service level agreement (SLA) that specified how a managed service provider (...

  • data protection impact assessment (DPIA)

    A data protection impact assessment (DPIA) is a process designed to help organizations determine how data processing systems, ...

SearchSecurity

  • identity provider

    An identity provider is a system component that is able to provide an end user or internet-connected device with a single set of ...

  • firewall

    A firewall is software or firmware that enforces a set of rules about what data packets will be allowed to enter or leave a ...

  • encryption

    Encryption is the method by which information is converted into secret code that hides the information's true meaning. The ...

SearchHealthIT

SearchDisasterRecovery

  • business continuity plan (BCP)

    A business continuity plan (BCP) is a document that consists of the critical information an organization needs to continue ...

  • disaster recovery team

    A disaster recovery team is a group of individuals focused on planning, implementing, maintaining, auditing and testing an ...

  • cloud insurance

    Cloud insurance is any type of financial or data protection obtained by a cloud service provider. 

SearchStorage

Close