ac·​ro·​nym ˈa-krə-ˌnim How to pronounce acronym (audio)
: 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
acronymic adjective
acronymically adverb

Frequently Asked Questions

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 The acronym continued to gain popularity in subsequent years, particularly surrounding the 2006 World Cup, The Telegraph later reported. Martha Ross, The Mercury News, 9 Feb. 2024 The acronym was soon weaponized—applied to virtually any group that challenged development. TIME, 6 Feb. 2024 While the nickname gained traction around that time, widespread utilization of the GOP acronym didn’t come for at least another 10 years. Alex Gurley, Peoplemag, 25 Jan. 2024 Mentions of diversity, equity and inclusion on earnings calls and at conferences has fallen drastically, according to a Bloomberg News analysis; in the third quarter of 2023, the acronym’s use fell to its lowest level since 2018. Beth Kowitt, Twin Cities, 25 Jan. 2024 Much of the payload from OSIRIS-REx (an acronym for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security-Regolith Explorer) will then be frozen and carefully preserved so that future generations of scientists will be able to study it with advanced technologies. Corinne Purtill, Los Angeles Times, 21 Jan. 2024 The facts The acronym EGOT stands for Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony, and is used to refer to people who have won at least one of each of the main American entertainment awards in competitive categories. Annabelle Timsit, Washington Post, 16 Jan. 2024 To reflect and act on this role, DEI is the perfect acronym. Peter Vanham, Fortune, 11 Jan. 2024 Thomas didn’t end up winning any of the four awards, but his acronym would eventually find its way to the mainstream. Julia Binswanger, Smithsonian Magazine, 16 Jan. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'acronym.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


probably borrowed from German Akronym, Akronymon, from akr- acr- + -onym, -onymon -onym

First Known Use

1940, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of acronym was in 1940


Dictionary Entries Near acronym

Cite this Entry

“Acronym.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


ac·​ro·​nym ˈak-rə-ˌnim How to pronounce acronym (audio)
: a word (as radar) formed from the beginning letter or letters of each or most of the parts of a compound term

More from Merriam-Webster on acronym

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