ab·​bre·​vi·​ate ə-ˈbrē-vē-ˌāt How to pronounce abbreviate (audio)
abbreviated; abbreviating

transitive verb

: to make briefer
an abbreviated session
an abbreviated version of the story
especially : to reduce (a word or name) to a shorter form intended to stand for the whole
You can abbreviate the word building as bldg.
"United States of America" is commonly abbreviated to "USA."
abbreviator noun

Did you know?

Abbreviate and abridge both mean "to make shorter," so it probably will come as no surprise that both derive from Latin brevis, meaning "short." Abbreviate first appeared in print in English in the 15th century and derives from abbreviātus, the past participle of Late Latin abbreviāre, which in turn can be traced back to brevis. Abridge, which appeared a century earlier, also comes from abbreviāre but took a side trip through the Anglo-French abreger before arriving in Middle English as abreggen. Brevis is also the ancestor of English brief itself, as well as brevity and breviary ("a prayer book" or "a brief summary"), among other words.

Choose the Right Synonym for abbreviate

shorten, curtail, abbreviate, abridge, retrench mean to reduce in extent.

shorten implies reduction in length or duration.

shorten a speech

curtail adds an implication of cutting that in some way deprives of completeness or adequacy.

ceremonies curtailed because of rain

abbreviate implies a making shorter usually by omitting some part.

using an abbreviated title

abridge implies a reduction in compass or scope with retention of essential elements and a relative completeness in the result.

the abridged version of the novel

retrench suggests a reduction in extent or costs of something felt to be excessive.

declining business forced the company to retrench

Examples of abbreviate in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web And the Dodgers lineup is so loaded, this offers him his best final chance to win a World Series in a season not abbreviated by a pandemic. Bill Plaschke, Los Angeles Times, 7 Feb. 2024 After transferring to the Terps, Tagovailoa started four games in 2020 that was abbreviated by the coronavirus pandemic before starting 13 in 2021, 12 in 2022 and 13 last fall. Edward Lee, Baltimore Sun, 17 Jan. 2024 The attendees were in store for a retread of stump speeches—abbreviated to five minutes—that many of them had seen a handful of times at town halls. Antonia Hitchens, The New Yorker, 16 Jan. 2024 Lodder, a Lexington resident who was already passionate about the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (a field commonly abbreviated as SETI), was tapped to help the team. Daniel Wu, Washington Post, 12 Jan. 2024 Typically abbreviated as BMCs, baseboard management controllers are small chips that are soldered onto the motherboard of servers inside data centers. Dan Goodin, Ars Technica, 4 Oct. 2023 College names are abbreviated, and they may not be sorted in alphabetical order. Susan Tompor, Detroit Free Press, 9 Jan. 2024 Tenison said his experience as a tanker was abbreviated when he was deployed to Iraq in 2006. Daniel Wu, Washington Post, 15 Dec. 2023 On Thursday, the King kicked off a visit to the city in the United Arab Emirates for the 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference, abbreviated as COP28. Janine Henni, Peoplemag, 30 Nov. 2023 See More

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

Word History


Middle English abbreviaten, borrowed from Late Latin abbreviātus, past participle of abbreviāre "to make shorter" — more at abridge

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of abbreviate was in the 15th century


Dictionary Entries Near abbreviate

Cite this Entry

“Abbreviate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


ab·​bre·​vi·​ate ə-ˈbrē-vē-ˌāt How to pronounce abbreviate (audio)
abbreviated; abbreviating
: to make briefer : shorten
especially : to reduce (as a word) to a shorter form intended to stand for the whole

Middle English abbreviaten "abbreviate," from Latin abbreviatus "made short," from abbreviare "to shorten," from earlier ad- "to" and brevis "short" — related to abridge, brief

More from Merriam-Webster on abbreviate

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