acronym

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English[edit]

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Etymology[edit]

acro- +‎ -onym, first attested around 1940. From Ancient Greek ἄκρος (ákros, tip).

Pronunciation[edit]

Noun[edit]

acronym (plural acronyms)

  1. An abbreviation formed by (usually initial) letters taken from a word or series of words, that is itself pronounced as a word, such as RAM, radar, or scuba; sometimes contrasted with initialism.
    • 2014, A teacher, "Choosing a primary school: a teacher's guide for parents", The Guardian, 23 September 2014:
      Some teachers festoon every spare inch of wall with vocabulary choices or maths techniques to use, which look great at first, but to some children might appear quite daunting. You'll probably see unfamiliar acronyms such as Walt (We Are Learning To). Be sure to ask what they stand for and how they are used in practice.
  2. A pronounceable word formed from the beginnings (letter or syllable) of other words and thus representing the phrase so formed, e.g. Benelux = the countries Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg considered as a political or economic whole.
  3. Any abbreviation so formed, regardless of pronunciation, such as TNT, BBC, IBM, or XML (see usage notes).
    • 2013 July 19, Timothy Garton Ash, “Where Dr Pangloss meets Machiavelli”, The Guardian Weekly, volume 189, number 6, page 18: 
      Hidden behind thickets of acronyms and gorse bushes of detail, a new great game is under way across the globe. Some call it geoeconomics, but it's geopolitics too. The current power play consists of an extraordinary range of countries simultaneously sitting down to negotiate big free trade and investment agreements.

Usage notes[edit]

  • The first known use of the word[1] used the word in the third sense: "Pee-gee-enn. It's an acronym [Ger. Akronym], that's what it is. That's what they call words made up of initials."
  • The third sense is sometimes criticized by commentators and others who prefer the term initialism for abbreviations that are not pronounced like an ordinary word, on the grounds that the distinction is useful.
  • An early definition[2] was "term for words made from the initial letters or syllables of other words", indicating that it should be pronounceable as a word, e.g. snafu, comsat.
  • Initialisms are generally written with all letters in upper case (such as EDP or IT). Acronyms are treated as words in their own right and are written in lower case (such as scuba or radar).
  • In American English, the general rule is that acronyms of more than four letters are written in lower case (e.g., laser, but UNESCO, UNHCR and many others) while those with four or fewer letters are written in all caps (e.g., NATO). (In European usage the latter example is usually written "Nato", it being both a true acronym and a proper noun.)
  • Older usage required that each letter be followed by a full stop (period). Current usage tends to omit full stops.
  • In recent years, the use of mixed capitalization in acronyms has become more common in two circumstances. The first occurs when the words contain articles that are not capitalized when spelled out in title case – for instance, Field of Regard initialized as "FoR." (This can be helpful in preventing confusion among acronyms spelled the same way to represent different meanings.) The other circumstance occurs when the writer is attempting to make an acronym pronounceable when it otherwise would not be by including more than just initial letters – for instance, "RaZR".
  • Acronyms also exist which, for convenience's sake, are pronounced with interstitial sounds, usually vowels, placed among the initials to make pronunciation easier. An example is WSDL (web services description language) pronounced wizdul.[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "L. Feuchtwanger's Paris Gazette" (1940)
  2. ^ American Speech Vol. 18, No. 2. (Apr., 1943), page 142
  3. ^ http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/library/lol/acronym.html

Translations[edit]

See also[edit]