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
acronymicplay \ˌa-krə-ˈni-mik\ adjective
acronymicallyplay \-mi-k(ə-)lē\ adverb
acronym was our Word of the Day on 05/05/2017. Hear the podcast!
Examples of acronym in a Sentence
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is known by the acronym “NATO.”
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.
Origin and Etymology of acronym
acr- + -onym name, word
First Known Use: 1940
ACRONYM Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of acronym for English Language Learners
: a word formed from the first letters of each one of the words in a phrase
ACRONYM Defined for Kids
Definition of acronym for Students
: 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.”
Seen and Heard
What made you want to look up acronym? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).