• synonyms


[ ih-nish-uh-liz-uh m ]
/ ɪˈnɪʃ əˌlɪz əm /


a set of initials representing a name, organization, or the like, with each letter pronounced separately, as FBI for Federal Bureau of Investigation.
a name or term formed from the initial letters of a group of words and pronounced as a separate word, as NATO for North Atlantic Treaty Organization; an acronym.
the practice of using initials or forming words from initials.



Nearby words

init., initial, initial code, initial rhyme, initial teaching alphabet, initialism, initialize, initially, initiate, initiating agent, initiation

Origin of initialism

First recorded in 1895–1900; initial + -ism
Can be confusedabbreviation acronym initialism

Grammar note Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Word Origin and History for initialism



word formed from the first letters of other words or a phrase, 1957, from initial (n.) + -ism. The distinction from acronym is not universally agreed-upon; in general, words such as NATO, where the letters form a word, are regarded as acronyms, those such as FBI, where the letters sound as letters, are initialisms.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper