[ ak-ruh-nim ]
/ ˈæk rə nɪm /


a word formed from the initial letters or groups of letters of words in a set phrase or series of words and pronounced as a separate word, as Wac from Women's Army Corps,OPEC from Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, or loran from long-range navigation.
a set of initials representing a name, organization, or the like, with each letter pronounced separately; an initialism.

verb (used with object)

to make an acronym of: The committee's name has been acronymed MIKE.


WATCH NOW: What Is The Difference Between Abbreviations And Acronyms?

There really could be a whole separate dictionary for the abundance of acronyms and abbreviations people use today. But what is the actual difference between abbreviations and acronyms?




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Origin of acronym

First recorded in 1940–45; acr- + -onym

grammar notes for acronym


ac·ro·nym·ic, a·cron·y·mous [uh-kron-uh-muhs], /əˈkrɒn ə məs/, adjectiveac·ro·nym·i·cal·ly, adverb


abbreviation, acronym , initialism Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020


What does acronym mean?

An acronym is a word formed by abbreviating a phrase by combining certain letters of words in the phrase (often the first initial of each) into a single term.

Common examples of acronyms include NASA (an acronym for National Aeronautics and Space Administration) and FOMO (a slang acronym for fear of missing out). The word scuba comes from an acronym for self-contained underwater breathing apparatus.

Although acronym is sometimes used generally to refer to any term formed from this kind of abbreviation, it typically refers to ones that can be pronounced as a word. This is sometimes contrasted with an initialism.

What’s the difference between an acronym and an initialism?

Initialism is sometimes used as a synonym for acronym, but most technically it refers to an abbreviation in which each initial is pronounced separately (instead of pronouncing them together as a single word, as in scuba or NASA). For example, FBI is an initialism of Federal Bureau of Investigation; TMI is an initialism of too much information.

Acronyms are often associated with their use in certain fields that use a lot of technical terms, like science, tech, and the military. But they’re popular in all kinds of contexts since they’re an easy way to make long phrases much shorter.

Example: STEM is an acronym that stands for “Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.”

Where does acronym come from?

The first records of the word acronym come from the 1940s. It comes from a combination of acr- (a variant of acro, meaning “tip end” and referring to using the first letters of each word in a phrase) and onym, meaning “name” (as seen in words like synonym, antonym, and pseudonym).

Some common words started as acronyms: radar comes from an acronym for radio detection and ranging; laser comes from an acronym for lightwave amplification by stimulated emission of radiation. As you can see in these two terms, acronyms are not always formed from just the first initial of each word, and not every word in the phrase always contributes a letter. There aren’t any strict rules—acronyms are typically formed in whatever way results in a word that’s easy to say.

This is the most technical sense of acronym—an abbreviation pronounced as a word. But it’s often used in a more general way to refer to any abbreviation, such as common text and chat abbreviations like brb and ttyl. These are more technically called initialisms.

Some abbreviations can be pronounced both as single words and letter-by-letter. For example, ASAP (for as soon as possible) is commonly pronounced A-S-A-P, but it can also be pronounced AY-sap. Still, terms like brb, ttyl, and ASAP are commonly thought of as acronyms.

Acronyms are commonly used to abbreviate organization names, but they’re used in all different contexts, including science, the military, government, slang, and pop culture.

Sometimes, people try to claim that a word actually came from an acronym when it really didn’t. This is called a backronym. Popular examples include the word posh, which is said to come from the phrase port out, starboard home, and tag, which is said to be an acronym for touch and go. Neither of these are true.

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What are some other forms related to acronym?

  • acronymic (adjective)
  • acronymous (adjective)
  • acronymically (adverb)

What are some synonyms for acronym?

What are some words that share a root or word element with acronym

What are some words that often get used in discussing acronym?


What are some words acronym may be commonly confused with?



How is acronym used in real life?

Acronyms are used in all kinds of contexts. People sometimes criticize government agencies and other organizations for using too many acronyms, since it can be hard to know what they all mean.



Try using acronym!

True or False? 

Acronym and initialism always mean the same exact thing.

Example sentences from the Web for acronym

British Dictionary definitions for acronym

/ (ˈækrənɪm) /


a pronounceable name made up of a series of initial letters or parts of words; for example, UNESCO for the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization

Derived forms of acronym

acronymic or acronymous (əˈkrɒnɪməs), adjective

Word Origin for acronym

C20: from acro- + -onym
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Cultural definitions for acronym

[ (ak-ruh-nim) ]

A word formed by combining the beginning letters of a name or phrase, as in WASP for white Anglo-Saxon Protestant, or by combining the initial syllables of a series of words, as in radar, which stands for radio detecting and ranging.

notes for acronym

Acronyms are often less clumsy than the complete expressions they represent and are easier to write and remember.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.