Definition of abbreviation
1 : a shortened form of a written word or phrase used in place of the whole word or phrase “Amt” is an abbreviation for “amount.” “USA” is an abbreviation of “United States of America.”
2 : the act or result of abbreviating something : abridgment I know you would not be satisfied with an abbreviation of its contents, and you shall have the whole, save, perhaps, a few passages here and there of merely temporary interest to the writer … — Anne Brontë
Recent Examples of abbreviation from the Web
Be sure to use complete sentences, avoid abbreviations (totes obvs), and begin with a greeting that conveys respect.
Miss Manners puts this confusion down to our silly persistence in using a French abbreviation, when a lot of people seem not to have been paying attention in French class.
The show’s title alludes both to the family’s jaunty abbreviation for funeral home and, ironically, to its increasingly evident dysfunction.
For some active in the Chicago LGBTQ community, like Mike Oboza, June LaTrobe, Owen Keehnen and Alexis Mickler, more letters in the abbreviation mean greater unity, an opportunity for greater awareness and, perhaps, greater political muscle.
Ryan S. Dillon, a military spokesman in Baghdad, said in an email on Tuesday, using the abbreviation for the Syrian Democratic Forces, a combination of mostly Syrian Kurdish and Arab militias.
Ready-to-wear label Fashpa (an abbreviation of Fashion Parade), sells pieces online that are made exclusively in Lagos.
Confusion about OBOR isn't helped by its lack of a clear name or even a settled upon abbreviation.
The pages of documents, rife with abbreviations and medical jargon, left her as puzzled as before.
These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'abbreviation.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.
What is an abbreviation?
An abbreviation is a shortened form of a written word or phrase. Abbreviations may be used to save space and time, to avoid repetition of long words and phrases, or simply to conform to conventional usage.
The styling of abbreviations is inconsistent and arbitrary and includes many possible variations. Some abbreviations are formed by omitting all but the first few letters of a word; such abbreviations usually end in a period: Oct. for October, univ. for university, and cont. for continued. Other abbreviations are formed by omitting letters from the middle of the word and usually also end in a period: govt. for government, Dr. for Doctor, and atty. for attorney. Abbreviations for the names of states in the U.S. are two capitalized letters, e.g., AR for Arkansas, ME for Maine, and TX for Texas.
Acronyms are abbreviations formed from the initial letters of an expanded phrase and usually do not include periods: PR for public relations, CEO for chief executive officer, and BTW for by the way. Some acronyms are pronounced as words: FEMA for Federal Emergency Management Agency and NATO for North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Although some people assert that all acronyms not pronounced as words, such as EPA for Environmental Protection Agency, be referred to as initialisms, the term acronym is in fact applied to both.
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.
Origin and Etymology of abbreviation
Middle English abbreviacioun “contraction, shortening,” borrowed from Anglo-French abreviation, borrowed from Late Latin abbreviātiōn-, abbreviātiō, from abbreviāre “to abbreviate” + Latin -tiōn-, -tiō, suffix of action nouns
First Known Use: 15th centurySee Words from the same year
ABBREVIATION Defined for Kids
Definition of abbreviation for Students
: a shortened form of a word or phrase
Learn More about abbreviation
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