ac·​ro·​nym ˈa-krə-ˌnim How to pronounce acronym (audio)
: a word (such 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 (such as FBI) formed from initial letters : initialism
acronymic adjective
acronymically adverb

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between an acronym and an initialism?

Both acronyms and initialisms are made up of the first letter or letters of the words in a phrase. The word acronym typically applies when the resulting thing can be read as a word; for example, radar comes from "radio detection and ranging" and scuba comes from "self-contained underwater breathing apparatus." The word initialism only applies when the resulting thing is read as an abbreviation; for example DIY, which comes from "do it yourself," is pronounced by saying the names of the letters. Note that the word acronym is also sometimes used to mean "initialism."

What is the difference between an acronym and an abbreviation?

An acronym is a kind of abbreviation. Abbreviations can be shortened forms of any kind. For example, appt is an abbreviation of appointment, and ASAP is an abbreviation of as soon as possible. ASAP, however, also qualifies as an acronym because it is made up of the initial letters of the phrase it comes from: as soon as possible.

Is OK an acronym?

OK is technically an acronym. It comes from the phrase "oll korrect," a humorous alteration of "all correct."

Examples of acronym in a Sentence

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is known by the acronym “NATO.”
Recent Examples on the Web Also, in terms of the doctor-patient relationship, there is an acronym that is used by some consisting of stating this as DPR. Lance Eliot, Forbes, 16 Feb. 2024 The acronym was first coined in an influential 2010 paper to describe the wildly unrepresentative populations that many psychology studies have long relied on. Connie Chang, The Atlantic, 15 Feb. 2024 In Paris, Russian and Belarusian athletes who are eligible will compete as Individual Neutral Athletes — using the French acronym AIN. Stephen Wade, USA TODAY, 26 Jan. 2024 The protesters were immediately drowned out by UAW workers, who chanted their union's acronym. NBC News, 25 Jan. 2024 The acronym continued to gain popularity in subsequent years, particularly surrounding the 2006 World Cup, The Telegraph later reported. Martha Ross, The Mercury News, 9 Feb. 2024 The acronym was soon weaponized—applied to virtually any group that challenged development. TIME, 6 Feb. 2024 While the nickname gained traction around that time, widespread utilization of the GOP acronym didn’t come for at least another 10 years. Alex Gurley, Peoplemag, 25 Jan. 2024 Mentions of diversity, equity and inclusion on earnings calls and at conferences has fallen drastically, according to a Bloomberg News analysis; in the third quarter of 2023, the acronym’s use fell to its lowest level since 2018. Beth Kowitt, Twin Cities, 25 Jan. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'acronym.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


probably borrowed from German Akronym, Akronymon, from akr- acr- + -onym, -onymon -onym

First Known Use

1940, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of acronym was in 1940


Dictionary Entries Near acronym

Cite this Entry

“Acronym.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition


ac·​ro·​nym ˈak-rə-ˌnim How to pronounce acronym (audio)
: a word (as radar) formed from the beginning letter or letters of each or most of the parts of a compound term

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