acronym

noun
ac·​ro·​nym | \ ˈa-krə-ˌnim How to pronounce acronym (audio) \

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 How to pronounce acronymic (audio) \ adjective
acronymically \ ˌa-​krə-​ˈni-​mi-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce acronymically (audio) \ 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

Her 2015 sophomore album, Big Grrrl Small World, was released on BGSW -- an acronym for the album title. Paul Grein, Billboard, "Will Lizzo Be Eligible for Best New Artist at 2020 Grammys?," 10 Sep. 2019 For the past 30 years, the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Natural Renewable Resources, known by its acronym IBAMA, has stood at the forefront of the uphill fight against Amazon destruction. Felipe Fittipaldi, National Geographic, "Inside the faltering fight against illegal Amazon logging," 28 Aug. 2019 The levy is known locally as GAFA, an acronym for the biggest of the companies expected to be impacted by the new measure: Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple. Bernhard Warner, Fortune, "A Tale of Two Industries: Why Winemakers Are Hailing a G7 Victory and Tech Companies Are Crying Foul," 27 Aug. 2019 What exactly will physically connect the Verdugo Mountains and the San Rafael Hills is still up in the air, according to members of the Upper Los Angeles River and Tributaries working group, known by its acronym ULART. Lila Seidman, Glendale News-Press, "L.A. River revitalization: Plan to connect Verdugo Mountains, San Rafael Hills unveiled," 16 July 2019 For four seasons, Wright drew laughs as Willie Tanner, the harried homeowner forced to deal with the kooky shenanigans of a wisecracking alien named ALF (an acronym for Alien Life Form) who crash-landed into his garage from the planet Melmac. Storm Gifford, chicagotribune.com, "Actor Max Wright, who played father on ‘Alf,’ dies at 75," 27 June 2019 Inside the building, staffers refer to the traditional programming staples by the acronym SOB: symphony, opera and ballet. Washington Post, "Kennedy Center looks to the future with opening of The Reach," 6 Sep. 2019 The Brazilian Amazon has experienced 74,155 fires since January, according to data from Brazil's National Institute for Space Research, known by the acronym INPE. oregonlive.com, "Amazon rainforest is ablaze, turning day into night in Sao Paulo," 21 Aug. 2019 The company’s name is an acronym of Vision Of Infinite Dimensions; before starting it, in 2015, its founders had careers as a theme-park entrepreneur, in the field of interactive design, and among Las Vegas magicians, respectively. Troy Patterson, The New Yorker, "The VOID Is Where Virtual Reality Enters the Dying Meatspace of the Mall," 23 Aug. 2019

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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Last Updated

9 Oct 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 How to pronounce acronym (audio) \

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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