acronym

play
noun ac·ro·nym \ˈa-krə-ˌnim\

Definition of acronym

  1. :  a word (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 (as FBI) formed from initial letters :  initialism

acronymic

play \ˌa-krə-ˈni-mik\ adjective

acronymically

play \-mi-k(ə-)lē\ adverb

Examples of acronym in a sentence

  1. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is known by the acronym NATO.

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


First Known Use: 1943

Other Grammar and Linguistics Terms


ACRONYM Defined for English Language Learners

acronym

play
noun ac·ro·nym \ˈa-krə-ˌnim\

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

acronym

play
noun ac·ro·nym \ˈa-krə-ˌnim\

Definition of acronym for Students

  1. :  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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