[ uh-kraw-stik, uh-kros-tik ]
/ əˈkrɔ stɪk, əˈkrɒs tɪk /
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a series of lines or verses in which the first, last, or other particular letters when taken in order spell out a word, phrase, etc.
Also a·cros·ti·cal. of, like, or forming an acrostic.
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Origin of acrostic

1580–90; <Greek akrostichís, equivalent to akro-acro- + stích(os) stich1 + -is noun suffix


a·cros·ti·cal·ly, adverb
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What is an acrostic?

An acrostic is a series of lines of writing or verses of poetry in which certain letters can be read from a word or phrase.

Here is an example of an acrostic in which the first letter of each word creates another word (dogs):



Good Friends


An acrostic doesn’t have to use the letters of the first words of a line, however. The letters could be from words in the middle or at the end of lines, as well. The letters of the “hidden message” are typically capitalized (food):

Made Fresh

Healthy Only

Double Order

Tastes Delicious

There are three types of acrostics. An acrostic that uses the initial letters is called a single acrostic (cat):




An acrostic that uses the first and last letters of a line is called a double acrostic (bird song):

Beautiful chirping sounds

I love the audio

Relaxes my brain

Delightful listening

A triple acrostic uses the first letter, last letter, and a middle letter to form words.

The adjective form of acrostic is acrostical, as in The poem was acrostical.

Why is acrostic important?

The first records of acrostic come from around 1580. It comes from the Greek word akrostichís, made from acro (end or extremity) and stich (a line of poetry). The most common (and easiest) form of acrostic is using the “ends” of lines (first or last letters) to make hidden messages.

An acrostic doesn’t have to be formed from top to bottom, either. Here is an example of this using a double acrostic that forms the same word (bat):

Beats its wings at night

Always prowling the area

Tries to eat its grub

Acrostics are most commonly used in poetry, where it is easy to construct them. Here is an example of an acrostic poem by Edgar Allen Poe (Elizabeth):

Elizabeth it is in vain you say

“Love not”—thou sayest it in so sweet a way:

In vain those words from thee or L. E. L.

Zantippe’s talents had enforced so well:

Ah! if that language from thy heart arise,

Breathe it less gently forth—and veil thine eyes.

Endymion, recollect, when Luna tried

To cure his love—was cured of all beside—

His folly—pride—and passion—for he died.

Did you know … ?

Acrostics are a very old literary device. They were used as early as the writing of the Hebrew Bible thousands of years ago. Rather than spell words, these acrostics used every letter of the Hebrew alphabet in order.

What are real-life examples of acrostic?

Some creative people still enjoy the occasional acrostic.


What other words are related to acrostic?

Quiz yourself!

True or False?

An acrostic uses letters from lines of writing or verse to spell words or phrases.

How to use acrostic in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for acrostic

/ (əˈkrɒstɪk) /

  1. a number of lines of writing, such as a poem, certain letters of which form a word, proverb, etc. A single acrostic is formed by the initial letters of the lines, a double acrostic by the initial and final letters, and a triple acrostic by the initial, middle, and final letters
  2. the word, proverb, etc, so formed
  3. (as modifier)an acrostic sonnet

Derived forms of acrostic

acrostically, adverb

Word Origin for acrostic

C16: via French from Greek akrostikhis, from acro- + stikhos line of verse, stich
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