acronym

noun
ac·​ro·​nym | \ ˈa-krə-ˌnim \

Definition of acronym

: 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

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Other Words from acronym

acronymic \ ˌa-​krə-​ˈni-​mik \ adjective
acronymically \ -​mi-​k(ə-​)lē \ adverb

What's the difference between an abbreviation and an acronym?

Some people are unsure of whether to call ASAP or appt abbreviations or acronyms. Both abbreviation and acronym are used to refer to a shortened form, but an acronym is a shortened form of a phrase and is usually made up of the initial letters of that phrase. For example, NATO comes from “North Atlantic Treaty Organization,” and ASAP comes from “as soon as possible.” Abbreviations, on the other hand, can be shortened forms of words or phrases, and need not necessarily be made up of the initial letters of either. ASAP and appt (for appointment) are both considered abbreviations, but only ASAP is an acronym. Acronyms are a type of abbreviation.

What is the difference between the words acronym and initialism?

Acronym is a fairly recent word, dating from the 1940s, although acronyms existed long before we gave them that name. The term was preceded in English by the word initialism, meaning an abbreviation formed from the initial letters of a phrase, and which has been in use since the late 19th century.

Some people feel strongly that acronym should only be used for terms like NATO, which is pronounced as a single word, and that initialism should be used if the individual letters are all pronounced distinctly, as with FBI. Our research shows that acronym is commonly used to refer to both types of abbreviations.

Did You Know?

Acronym was created by combining acr- ("beginning") with -onym, ("name" or "word"). You may recognize -onym in other familiar English words such as pseudonym and synonym. English speakers borrowed -onym directly from the Greek (it derives from onyma, the Greek word for "name"). Acr- is also from Greek, but it made a side trip through Middle French on its way to English.

Examples of acronym in a Sentence

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is known by the acronym “NATO.”

Recent Examples on the Web

The park is located at 123 Garfield St. The acronym for BYOC is bring your own cheese. Courant Community, "Community News For The Wethersfield Edition," 21 May 2018 These can get a little confusing and often can’t even be turned into pronounceable acronyms. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "The U.S. Military’s Cryptic Letters, Numbers, and Symbols, Explained," 6 Dec. 2018 The secret sauce left behind: so le al (Mama Choi’s acronym for soju, lemon, and aloe), a DIY facial toner meant to brighten, tighten, and clarify her skin. Maureen Choi, Glamour, "My Mother’s 5-Step Korean Beauty Routine Completely Changed My Skin," 21 Sep. 2018 People familiar with the Boeing manual said MCAS was mentioned, but only in the glossary spelling out the acronym (for Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System). Andy Pasztor, WSJ, "Boeing Omitted Safety-System Details, Minimized Training for Crashed Lion Air 737 Model," 5 Dec. 2018 Near the tram at the base area, JHMR’s newest après spot, RPK 3 (a wink to the acronym that refers to the snowfall forecast for powder day), opens this month, serving comfort food around a roaring fireplace. Alex Postman, Condé Nast Traveler, "If You're Skiing the Rockies This Winter, Read This First," 4 Dec. 2018 Turns out, this is a nightmare so common that one researcher created an acronym for it: BIB (Baby in Bed) dream. Merritt Watts, Glamour, "New Mom Nightmares: The Common Postpartum Symptom Nobody Talks About," 13 Sep. 2018 Every Vogue editor remembers their first AWOK, the little acronym (short for Anna Wintour Okay) scrawled on each print page by our inimitable editor in chief. Emilia Petrarca, The Cut, "We Regret to Inform You That Anna Wintour Is Now a Hypebeast," 12 July 2018 Founded three years ago, Aira – an acronym for Artificial Intelligence Remote Access – received $12 million in venture funding last year and now has 38 full-time workers. Mike Freeman, sandiegouniontribune.com, "How smartglasses help the blind see; conference spotlights assistive technologies," 27 Mar. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'acronym.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of acronym

1940, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for acronym

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

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Statistics for acronym

Last Updated

2 Jan 2019

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Time Traveler for acronym

The first known use of acronym was in 1940

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More Definitions for acronym

acronym

noun

English Language Learners Definition of acronym

: a word formed from the first letters of each one of the words in a phrase

acronym

noun
ac·​ro·​nym | \ ˈa-krə-ˌnim \

Kids Definition of acronym

: a word formed from the first letter or letters of the words of a compound term The word “radar” is an acronym for “radio detecting and ranging.”

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More from Merriam-Webster on acronym

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with acronym

Spanish Central: Translation of acronym

Nglish: Translation of acronym for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of acronym for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about acronym

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