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 \ -​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

More than 17,000 contributions of less than $100 have come into the group, which goes by the acronym BAWN. Aric Chokey, sun-sentinel.com, "Drive to get assault weapons ban on Florida ballot raises big money from handful of wealthy donors," 5 Aug. 2019 To help students in the United States remember this order of operations, teachers drill the acronym PEMDAS into them: parentheses, exponents, multiplication, division, addition, subtraction. Steven Strogatz, New York Times, "The Math Equation That Tried to Stump the Internet," 2 Aug. 2019 It is known by the acronym ARCOS, which stands for the Automation of Reports and Consolidated Orders System. Michael Nedelman And Arman Azad, CNN, "Newly released data shows flow of billions of pain pills from drug companies," 18 July 2019 Morrison said, using the official acronym for North Korea. Time, "Australian Student Released After Detention in North Korea," 4 July 2019 Morrison said, using the official acronym for North Korea. Rod Mcguirk, USA TODAY, "North Korea releases Australian student detained for week: 'I'm OK'," 4 July 2019 Feldmann went down the list of acronyms of the different instruments, which measure things like temperature, humidity, cloud cover, and water vapor: ASCAT. Andrew Blum, WIRED, "Inside the Room Where They Control the Weather Satellites," 25 June 2019 There are many different types of tensor networks, but among the most useful is the one known by the acronym MERA (multiscale entanglement renormalization ansatz). Jennifer Ouellette, Quanta Magazine, "How Quantum Pairs Stitch Space-Time," 28 Apr. 2015 Benjamin, a lawyer, and Hart, a finance consultant, started a nonprofit called AMIS, which is the French word for friends and is an acronym for Americans Making Immigrants Safe. Michael K. Mcintyre, cleveland.com, "Haitian asylum seeker Ansly Damus adjusting to freedom, seeks work to help family back home: Michael K. McIntyre," 14 July 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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Statistics for acronym

Last Updated

14 Aug 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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