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

Frequently Asked Questions About acronym

What is the difference between an acronym and an initialism?

Both acronyms and initialisms are made up of the first letter or letters of the words in a phrase. The word acronym typically applies when the resulting thing can be read as a word; for example, radar comes from "radio detection and ranging" and scuba comes from "self-contained underwater breathing apparatus." The word initialism only applies when the resulting thing is read as an abbreviation; for example DIY, which comes from "do it yourself," is pronounced by saying the names of the letters. Note that the word acronym is also sometimes used to mean "initialism."

What is the difference between an acronym and an abbreviation?

An acronym is a kind of abbreviation. Abbreviations can be shortened forms of any kind. For example, appt is an abbreviation of appointment, and ASAP is an abbreviation of as soon as possible. ASAP, however, also qualifies as an acronym because it is made up of the initial letters of the phrase it comes from: as soon as possible.

Is OK an acronym?

OK is technically an acronym. It comes from the phrase "oll korrect," a humorous alteration of "all correct."

Examples of acronym in a Sentence

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is known by the acronym “NATO.”
Recent Examples on the Web Several sources confirm golf cannot be an acronym because the word was used in different variations before there was a standardized spelling. Devon Link, USA TODAY, "Fact check: Origin stories for popular phrases are nothing more than urban legends," 17 Oct. 2020 Seasonal affective disorder, also known by its apt acronym, SAD, is a form of depression that some people get for a few months each year, most commonly during the late fall and winter months, as the days shorten. Ryan Prior, CNN, "How to guard against seasonal affective disorder in the pandemic's winter months," 14 Oct. 2020 The program is known as SPLICE, a convoluted acronym standing for Safe and Precise Landing - Integrated Capabilities Evolution. William Harwood, CBS News, "Bezos' Blue Origin launches unpiloted New Shepard capsule to edge of space," 13 Oct. 2020 The findings are part of the Pregnancy Coronavirus Outcomes Registry, which goes by the acronym Priority. Sumathi Reddy, WSJ, "What You Need to Know About Covid-19 and Pregnancy," 12 Oct. 2020 What could be better than an unfamiliar organization whose acronym looks like a pronoun? Anne Applebaum, The Atlantic, "The U.S. Used to Write the Rules—Now China Does," 8 Oct. 2020 The Big 5 are widely used metrics of personality, often referenced with the acronym OCEAN: openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. Popular Science, "What being a cat- or dog-person says about you," 7 Oct. 2020 Over all, the military counterintelligence service, known widely by the acronym MAD, is investigating more than 600 soldiers for far-right extremism. Katrin Bennhold, New York Times, "Germany Dismisses Military Intelligence Official After Neo-Nazi Scandals," 24 Sep. 2020 The organization teamed up with stars Ben Platt and Cynthia Erivo for an informational new campaign designed to promote the acronym CARE - Connect, Ask, Respond, Empower - a tool anyone can use to respond to possible warning signs for suicide. Rania Aniftos, Billboard, "Ben Platt & Cynthia Erivo Team Up With The Trevor Project to Share Steps to 'CARE' for LGTBQ Youth," 29 Sep. 2020

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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The first known use of acronym was in 1940

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Last Updated

20 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Acronym.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for acronym


How to pronounce acronym (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of acronym

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


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

Nglish: Translation of acronym for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of acronym for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about acronym

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