abbreviation

noun
ab·​bre·​vi·​a·​tion | \ ə-ˌbrē-vē-ˈā-shən How to pronounce abbreviation (audio) \

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

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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.

Examples of abbreviation in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web In May and June, Lynn punctuated several tweets with the same abbreviation. NBC News, "Walmart, Amazon among donors to QAnon-promoting lawmaker," 22 Sep. 2020 Does anyone still need to look up the abbreviation PPE? Deborah Netburn, Los Angeles Times, "From COVID to curbside, 2020 changed our vocabulary too," 28 Dec. 2020 The side channel in this case is the rate limit for ICMP, the abbreviation for the Internet Control Message Protocol. Dan Goodin, Ars Technica, "DNS cache poisoning, the Internet attack from 2008, is back from the dead," 12 Nov. 2020 In May and June, Lynn punctuated several tweets with the same abbreviation. NBC News, "Walmart, Amazon among donors to QAnon-promoting lawmaker," 22 Sep. 2020 Mobile-service providers, like any consumer company, can’t resist the opportunity to slap on a logo or coin a buzzy new abbreviation. Scott Moritz, Bloomberg.com, "Apple 5G iPhones Arrive With an Alphabet Soup of Abbreviations," 24 Oct. 2020 The name Antifa is an abbreviation of the phrase anti-fascist. Paul Steinhauser, Fox News, "Pro-Trump super PAC spending $1M to target Biden over Antifa," 14 Oct. 2020 This was Roberto de la Riva, co-director of Inquilinxs Unidxs por Justicia (United Renters for Justice), a tenants’ rights organization that also goes by the abbreviation IX. Matthew Desmond, New York Times, "The Tenants Who Evicted Their Landlord," 13 Oct. 2020 Members of unspecified APTs—the abbreviation for advanced persistent threats—are exploiting a Windows vulnerability dubbed Zerologon. Dan Goodin, Ars Technica, "FBI/DHS: Government election systems face threat from active Zerologon exploits," 9 Oct. 2020

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.

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First Known Use of abbreviation

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for 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

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Time Traveler for abbreviation

Time Traveler

The first known use of abbreviation was in the 15th century

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Statistics for abbreviation

Last Updated

21 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Abbreviation.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abbreviation. Accessed 23 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for abbreviation

abbreviation

noun
ab·​bre·​vi·​a·​tion | \ ə-ˌbrē-vē-ˈā-shən How to pronounce abbreviation (audio) \

Kids Definition of abbreviation

: a shortened form of a word or phrase

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