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Is it an Acronym or Abbreviation?

In this article we'll cover the semantic difference between acronyms, abbreviations and initialisms.

  Courtney Emerson  —  Jargon Tips

Ever heard of abbreviations? Of course! What about acronyms? Yes! Is there a difference between the two of them? Do abbreviation and acronym both mean the same thing? Umm.. Confused? Need assistance? Don’t panic, we’ll provide you with all the information that you are looking for. In this article, I will be discussing the differences between these two terms and how each of them is used in our everyday life.


The word acronym originated in 1940s from Greek akron ‘end, tip’ + -onym. The word abbreviation originated from from Latin brevis which means short.

acronyms vs. abbreviations

Acronym as noun:

The word acronym is used as a noun in English language which means an abbreviation formed from the initial letters of other words and pronounced as a word.

An acronym is a pronounceable word formed from the first letter or first few letters of each word in a phrase or title. Sometimes the newly-combined letters create a new word that takes the place in everyday language. Using this shortened form of a word or phrase can speed up communication.


Some examples of everyday acronyms include:

Ø  DATADesign and Technology Association

Ø  LASER - Light amplification by the stimulated emission of radiation.

Ø  NATO - The North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Ø  UNICEF - The United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund.

Ø  SCUBA - Self-contained underwater breathing apparatus.

Ø  WASP - White anglo saxon protestant.

Ø  ZIP – Zone Improvement Plan

Abbreviation as noun:

Abbreviation is also used as a noun in English language and it means a shortened form of a word or phrase. An abbreviation is written differently from the expanded form but is pronounced the same.

Dr. is the abbreviation for doctor while prof. is the abbreviation for professor.


Some examples of everyday abbreviations include:

Ø  R.S.V.P. - Répondez s'il vous plait.

Ø  A.M./P.M. - Ante meridiem/Post meridiem

Ø  ASAP – As soon as possible

Ø  DIY – Do it yourself

Ø  P.S. – Post script

Ø  E.g.Exempli gratia or for example

Acronym or abbreviation:

In summary, acronym is a word in itself which is derived from the first or first few letters of a phrase or term and is pronounced differently from the original word whereas abbreviation is a shortened form of one or more words which is pronounced as the original word.

Next time you get confused between these two words visit this page for a refresher.



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    The ultimate acronym test

    A Why did you write dat?
    B What do you want David?
    C What do you wanna do?
    D Why do you worry dude?